PG, but it's 100% my "Exhibit A" for how the MPAA is full of snot. It looks and sounds and feels like a kids' movie. It isn't a kids' movie. This is full on a Wes Anderson R rated movie. I can show parts of the movie to my kids, but there's so much going on in this movie. The big one is that Anderson curses like a sailor in the movie, but replaces every word with the word "cuss." He even goes so far as to say, "Clustercuss", to really let you know exactly which word is being replaced. Also, Fox kills another animal. There's just stuff in this. Bean is in charge of making alcoholic cider, which is interesting as a choice. I don't know if this is in the Dahl version. Regardless, technically PG.
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
For Christmas, I received both Isle of Dogs and the Criterion version of Fantastic Mr. Fox. I had already reviewed Isle of Dogs, as proven by the hyperlink above. But I wanted to watch both of these movies again to see if Wes Anderson had become a different animation director from his original outing with animation. In the course of watching both of these movies so close to each other, I now realize that I might absolutely adore Anderson as an animation director more than a live action director. Before, I had written Fantastic Mr. Fox off as his gimmicky offshoot. But between Isle of Dogs and Fantastic Mr. Fox, I realized that this earns a spot at the table as much, if not more, than his other live action outings.
I always want to show Fantastic Mr. Fox to my kids. I kind of already tiraded about this in the MPAA section, but it is so bizarre to think that this movie was marketed to kids. It is licensed from Roald Dahl's novel of the same name. Wes Anderson is an art house director who makes quirky comedies for hipster adults. It is bizarre to think that he wanted to something that was built around material made for children. I'm sure that 20th Century Fox (heh) thought that they had a goldmine on their hands. (Okay, I have no idea what studios think about Wes Anderson, but he can give a bit of street cred to a studio.) There's this big name director wanting to do your kids' movie. Sure, they gave him free rein. But for years, I tried showing my kids this movie. My kids wanted nothing to do with this movie after watching the first minute of the movie. It was only after I told them that they couldn't watch parts of it that they really wanted to see it. There were sections that I allowed them to watch. But they weren't laughing at it. I was howling. I think every parent has lamented about the trend with kids' comedies. The jokes are meant to be aimed at both kids and adults. Some movies, like The Grinch, only aim the jokes at kids. Wes Anderson almost intentionally shoots himself in the foot and makes none of the jokes for the kids. All of the jokes in the movie are pretty heady and artsy jokes. I actually had the best time in the world when I watched this movie after the kids went to bed. The other time, I was praying that they weren't getting what was going on. These are children's characters with very grounded realities. One of the animals is a realtor for goodness sake. That's the big joke that Anderson is playing at. These are animals that have very boring lives. We're only reminded that they are animals when someone points it out or they start eating savagely.
But if you take the kid element out of Fantastic Mr. Fox, it holds up as one of the better Wes Anderson movies of the past few years. The addition of animation to Anderson's narrative sense adds as a sense of grandeur. Until The Grand Budapest Hotel, his stories often tended to be people talking and walking with little action to be added to that. But animation lets stunt work happen that I haven't really seen in Anderson's other films. Fox has the playground / antagonists in Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The addition of action, somehow, still fits in the voice of Anderson himself. As Anderson's characters tend to be criminally direct with one another, the action of Fantastic Mr. Fox is also brusquely direct. Fox is matter-of-fact about all of his heists. I love that George Clooney has entered Wes Anderson's world, which kind of blows my mind. I'm not saying that celebrity has shied away from indie movies, but I just want to be a fly in the room when Anderson asked Clooney to bring Danny Ocean to an animated fox. Clooney nails it and the meta humor of the Danny Ocean trope being injected into a fox that steals chickens and apple cider is just sublime. I guess what I'm dancing around is that Anderson, despite a completely new medium, is still a master at character and satire. Clooney nails the message of Mr. Fox. Fox is, like Anderson's other protagonists, a child in terms of dealing with aging. Oddly enough, despite the fact that Fox is lambasted by his peers for being irresponsible and childish, is possibly the most mature of Anderson's protagonists. He has a wife and child. He has a job. Really, the story is about a midlife crisis that hits him. It isn't called that. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is about that grasping for youth that fades with responsibility. Fox is still a likable character throughout. I suppose that I should be criticizing Anderson's man-children, but I tend to see his male protagonists as simply flawed, not criminal.
If I think about Fantastic Mr. Fox, I think of a simple story about a Fox who outwits his human neighbors through a series of thefts. But what seems to be the A plot is almost the setting. Anderson continues his obsession with relationships and family. The fact that Fox has decided to go back to his life of theft despite his promise is a tale about how families adapt and how communication is vital to life. Fox has the cockiness of a Steve Zissou and says a lot. But he doesn't often say the right thing. This is telling with his relationship with Ash and Mrs. Fox. Ash is a wonderful character who is the perfect foil for Fox. Fox is confident and mostly successful in his efforts. Ash...isn't. Ash wants to be tall and athletic, but he doesn't possess any of those qualities. He just tries really hard. When Kristofferson enters the picture, there's this whole deeper level. While Fox can't communicate in a healthy manner with Ash, Ash can't communicate well with Kristofferson. Fox and Ash is a narrative about approval. Ash and Krisofferson is about jealousy. There's levels there. Mrs. Fox possibly has it even worse. She is the strong family head who isn't seen as the family head. She makes the tough choices while her husband is galavanting around reliving his glory days. There's this completely heavy line that probably would destroy a child. She tells her husband that she loves him, but wishes that she hadn't married him. That's a weird paradox and is telling about the regrets of her life. Mrs. Fox and characters like Mrs. Fox tend to get completely ignored by the male protagonist. I'm not saying that Fantastic Mr. Fox is a sufficient answer for how women are treated in cinema. But Mrs. Fox comes across as validated for being the glue in the family. Her painting is fun, but it is also the way that she deals with the fact that she's not a kid anymore. She has embraced adulthood in a way that shows how irresponsible Mr. Fox is. The movie is a journey of people discovering that "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is an inappropriate title because it forces him to try to be that time and time again. It's a fine line. Anderson seems to have this great cake-and-eat-it-too attitude about the whole thing. Fox is scolded for his obsession with his own ego. His actions have effects on those around him. He has this epiphany that he is causing everyone's misery. This is the moment where the unstoppable force of the theme meets the immovable object of having the Hollywood ending. It would be a real bummer if the movie ended with Foxy's surrender and eventual death. SPOILER: Instead, we get an even bigger hair-brained scheme that seems to contradict everything Fox learned in the course of the film. That's great. I didn't want this one to be a bummer. I love bummer endings, but a bummer ending attached to this would have made me rather sad.
I wonder if animation scratches a certain itch for Anderson. My theory is that it addresses a need to create from scratch. Now, I know that he's not the one hand animating the puppets. But I'm looking back at his other movies and I keep noticing what role art and creation have in his mise en scene. He has a very particular style. Heck, I can probably recognize some of Anderson's artwork (which I don't think is actually created by him) sooner than I would recognize a Monet. But Fantastic Mr. Fox almost exists in the world of his miniature images in the setting of his other films. I think back to The Darjeeling Limited and how art played a role in that. From a color scheme perspective, everything seems like it is plucked right out of Anderson's brain. I'll tell you what, and this is personal. These are the colors that I really enjoy. This movie is a warm blanket for me. It's very pretty to look at. Like I mentioned, I watched this with Isle of Dogs. I think that I like the look of Isle of Dogs a little better. There's a bit too much movement on everything in Fantastic Mr. Fox. I want to blame it on the fact that every character is covered in hair. But dogs have hair too, so I don't know how accurate that guess is. But both movies look absolutely gorgeous. I guess it is a blessing that Isle of Dogs was on his docket. I suppose that means that the animated entries will keep coming back into play because I really like how these movies feel. They have a scope that the other movies don't. Oddly enough, if they weren't animated, I'd have to qualify them as action comedies rather than simply comedies. There's a lot going on there. The movement gets us to these really great locations. I don't know why it sticks out more than other locations, but Bean's Cider factory is gorgeous. His use of light through the bottles of cider is weirdly effective. I just realized that if I wanted to have something play in the background of everything I did, it might be the cool look of this movie.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is a much better movie than I ever gave it credit for before. It's interesting. It's funny. It also seems to be Wes Anderson unfiltered, which is odd because he actually has to watch out for the MPAA this time. Sure, he replaces his language with the word "cuss", but it really does the job overall. Also, I want to play whackbat. I know someone out there has tried it...
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.