Fantastic Mr. Fox

PLOT:

While raiding a squab farm, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) trigger a fox trap and become caged. Felicity reveals to Fox that she is pregnant and pleads with him to find a safer job should they escape.

Two years later, the Foxes and their sullen son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), are living in a hole. Fox, now a newspaper columnist, decides to move the family into a better home and buys one in the base of a tree, ignoring the warnings of his lawyer Badger (Bill Murray). The tree is located very close to the enormous facilities run by farmers Walter Boggis, Nathan Bunce, and Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon). Soon after the Foxes move in, Felicity’s nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) comes to live with them, as his father has become very ill. Ash finds this situation intolerable considering his soft-spoken cousin is apparently superior to him in every possible aspect and seemingly everyone, including his own father, is charmed by Kristofferson at Ash’s expense.

Fox and the opossum building superintendent, Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky), make plans to steal various types of produce and poultry from the three farms, one by one. After all three heists are a success, the farmers decide to camp out near the Fox family’s tree and kill Fox. When he emerges, the farmers open fire, only managing to shoot off his tail before he retreats back into his home. The farmers then attempt to dig Fox out, first by hand and then with three excavators. After tearing the hill site of the tree into a massive crater, the farmers discover that the Foxes have dug an escape tunnel deep underground.

Reasoning that the Foxes will eventually have to surface in search of food and water, the farmers lie in wait at the tunnel mouth. Underground, Fox encounters Badger and many of the other local animal residents whose homes have also been destroyed. As the animals begin to fear starvation, Fox leads a digging expedition to the three nearby farms, robbing them clean of Boggis’ chickens, Bunce’s ducks and geese, and Bean’s turkeys, apples, and alcoholic cider. While the other animals feast, Ash and Kristofferson, beginning to reconcile after Kristofferson defended his cousin from a bully, return to Bean’s farm, intending to reclaim Fox’s tail, only to find that Bean has taken to wearing it as a necktie. When they are interrupted by the arrival of Bean’s wife, Ash escapes but Kristofferson is captured.

After discovering that Fox has stolen all of their produce, the farmers decide to flood the animals’ tunnel network by pumping it full of cider. The animals are forced to retreat into the sewers, and Fox learns that the farmers plan to use Kristofferson as bait to lure him into an ambush. They are soon confronted by Rat (Willem Dafoe), Bean’s security guard. After a struggle with Fox that leaves him mortally wounded, Rat divulges Kristofferson’s location.

Fox sends a message to the farmers, asking for a meeting in a town near the sewer hub wherein he will surrender in exchange for Kristofferson’s freedom. The farmers set up an ambush, but Fox and the others anticipate it and launch a counterattack. Fox, Ash, and Kylie escape the scene at the town and slip into Bean’s farm. In the operation, a much matured Ash frees Kristofferson and later deeply impresses his father and the gang by braving enemy fire to release a rabid beagle loose to keep the farmers at bay while the group escapes back to the sewers. The group manage to grab Fox’s tail from Bean as they flee the compound.

The animals become accustomed to living in the sewers, and Ash and Kristofferson have completely settled their differences and have become good friends, sharing meditation time together among other activities. Fox, now taking to wearing his tail as an pin-on, leads them to a drain opening that is built into the floor of a large supermarket, which is shown to the viewing audience to be owned by the three farmers. Celebrating their abundant new food source and the news that Felicity is pregnant again, the animals dance in the aisles.

REVIEW:

In this world of overused CGI, it always warms my heart to see a film that uses good old stop-motion animation. If nothing else about Fantastic Mr. Fox intrigues you, the fact that it was done using this medium should.

Critics and I rarely see thing the same way, but this is one of those rare occasions when they actually got it right. They raved like mad over this film, and found it hard to belive that it wasn’t more popular. To be truthful, until the Oscars, I had only heard about this in passing, and never really paid it any attention. That was my mistake.

This is a totally awesome flick, but be warned, some of the animation may appear creepy to some younger viewers, but that’s the joy of stop motion.

Mr. Fox is the scheming type and George Clooney’s voice and mannerisms fit him perfectly, especially when he’s being more of a douche than a father to his son.

Meryl Streep can do no wrong, even when just her voice is used, although, it would have been nice to have more than a handful of lines for her. I think that Ms. Fox isn’t exactly a prominent character in the books, either, so I can forgive this little oversight.

Jason Schwartzman isn’t exactly my favorite actor by any stretch of the imagination, but the timbre and inflections of his voice work for Ash, who happens to be one of those “different” kids just searching for approval from his dad. Having said that, he was still annoying.

Michael Gambon’s deep vocals make for as good a villain as they do a wizard headmaster. I was quite impressed with how he was able to inflect the madness that was consuming Franklin Bean as he pretty much destroyed the land in his attempt to catch Mr. Fox.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “crazy like a fox”. Well, with each attempt Bean made to capture Fox, that phrase ws going through my head because he was proving it to be true.

Yes, this is a comedy, but it’s more subtle comedy, rather than in your face, laugh out loud comedic stylings. This is fine, but not for me…a matter of personal taste, not a criticism.

What is it that makes this film so great? Well, the writing. There aren’t many films today that are written as well as this one and executed to perfection. I dare you to name me 5 films in the last year that accomplish this feat. I can think of maybe 1 or 2.

It is a genuine shame that this film didn’t garner more revenue at the box office, but that’s what happens when you have an independent and limited release. To make up for that, though, I implore you all to track down this DVD and check out Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is a real treat and hands down one of the best films to be released in theaters in a long time.

5 out of 5 stars

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