Having discovered that his wife was expecting a cub, Mr. Fox settles in to a life of responsibility and column writing and puts his former wild days of stealing chickens and terrorising the local farmers behind him.
His urge for adventure soon resurfaces, though, and he concocts a plan for one final raid (well, three) on the local farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr. Fox gets more than he bargains for and soon finds out that the lives of his family and friends are in danger as a result of his actions and he has to take responsibility and defeat the evil farmers.
Wes Anderson is the director whose work I most eagerly anticipate, but when I first heard that he would be bringing his unique sensibilities and attention to detail to Roald Dahl’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox, I was a little sceptical.Any feelings of scepticism quickly diminished once more details of the project began to surface, such as the decision to film using stop motion animation and who would be lending their voices to the characters.
Reportedly, The Fantastic Mr. Fox was the first book Anderson owned and his love for the source material is apparent from the opening shot through to the closing credits as he manages to capture the feel of Dahl’s book whilst leaving audiences with no doubt that they’re watching a Wes Anderson film. The look of the film was inspired by the illustrations of Donald Chaffin as opposed to those of Quentin Blake.
The look of the film is great. The colour pallette entirely consisting of autumnal tones gives the film a very distinct look and feel. The sets are all magnificent, there’s an incredible amount of detail in each scene and it looks like all the interior sets have been lived in. During the stay at Dahl’s estate, Anderson photographed the furniture and a number of other items so that they could be recreated and included in the film. Fox’s study is an exact replica of Dahl’s.
Mr. Fox is thought to have similar characteristics to Dahl, so it’s little surprise that Anderson decided to project something of him onto the character. Mr. Fox can be seen sporting Dahl’s favoured corduroy suits throughout the film.
The voice cast are, without exception, fantastic and the decision to have the majority of actors record their dialogue in a variety of different locations whilst acting out the scenes, as opposed to recording in a studio, was an absolute masterstroke. There’s a real sense of personality that comes across and little touches like hearing the characters seem out of breath and actually sounding like they’re in the environments seen on screen helped my enjoyment of the film no end.
It’s no surprise that the big names perform exceptionally well, but even the relative newcomers such as Wallace Wolodarsky (who co-wrote Monsters Vs Aliens) as Kylie, Eric Chase Anderson (Wes’ brother) as Kristofferson and Hugo Guinness (whose art can be seen in The Royal Tenenbaums) as Bunce are all great here.
You can’t take in a Wes Anderson movie and not acknowledge the excellent use of music. Music has played such a huge part in all of his movies and Fantastic Mr. Fox is no exception. From the opening accompanied by The Wellingtons’ version of The Ballad Of Davy Crocket and closing with The Bobby Fuller Four’s Let Her Dance, the musical cues throughout match the standard heard in Anderson’s previous works. The original music by Alexandre Desplat is equally good and provides the film with its musical heart. At the time of writing this review, the Oscars have yet to be presented, but this is my favourite nominated score and I’d be delighted to see it scoop the award on the night.
I wouldn’t be surprised if adults get more out of this than children, as a lot of the humour and dialogue wouldn’t be out of place in any of Anderson’s previous work. Liberal use of the word ‘cuss’ throughout to add a concept of profanity, and talk of existentialism is most definitely there for the benefit of older viewers.
That’s not to say that there’s nothing here for younger audiences enjoy. Clearly there is. The story is essentially the same, but there are a few changes to the narrative to make it more cinematic. Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach added a new beginning and end to the story, although the end scene was, in fact, based on an alternative ending discovered from Dahl’s notes whilst they wrote the screenplay at Dahl’s home.
I loved Fantastic Mr. Fox and would highly recommend it. In a year where a number of great children’s films were released, it stands up there with the best of them and I can see myself returning to it time and time again.
The Blu-ray offers impressive clarity in both picture and sound. Every hair can be seen on the character models, which look incredibly lifelike.
The film looks fantastic and was shot in a higher resolution than high definition, but at 12 frames per second so that audiences could fully experience the art of stop motion animation. So, it won’t run at the usual 24, but it’s an intentional move that in no way affects the quality of the picture.
All of Anderson’s films have a great deal of detail with regards to the dressing of the sets and it’s a lot easier to make out some of the little touches with the Blu-ray than it was at the cinema. I’ve seen the film a few times now and on each watch I’m picking out details that I didn’t notice previously.
Presented in DTS-HD 5.1 surround, the sound quality is superb throughout and the quality of sound brings Alexandre Desplat’s excellent score to life. The effects and vocal work all sound incredibly clear.
The release is a little light on extras but does come with DVD and digital copies of the movie.
There are a number of featurettes available on the disc and they’re well worth a watch, particularly those that fall within the ‘Making Mr. Fox Fantastic’ heading. The six featurettes are: The Look Of Fantastic Mr. Fox, From Script To Screen, The Puppet Makers, Still Life (Puppet Animation), The Cast and Bill And His Badger. These can be viewed individually and run for around 45 minutes, or you can view them individually. Watching these makes you appreciate the level of work that it took to bring Anderson’s vision to the screen.
There are two other short features: A Beginners Guide To Whack-Bat and Fantastic Mr. Fox: The World Of Roald Dahl. Both of these are incredibly short and can be watched in less than five minutes.
Although the extras are all interesting, it would have been nice to have a commentary track available. Also it would have been interesting to be able to hear some of Jarvis Cocker’s narration that was scrapped after early test screenings of the film.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.