Fantastic Mr. Fox 2009 ★★★½

Making the rare jump not only from live-action film to animation but also making the rare decision to craft a stop-motion animation film, Wes Anderson brought his unique sensibility to adapting Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox. Written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach, and directed by Anderson, Fox is an absolute delight filled with enough wit and energy to keep one entertained for hours. Coming in at a brisk and almost too brief 90-minute running time, the experience really flies by and left me wanting to go back and revisit it immediately after it was over.

Mr. Fox has settled down into the married life with Mrs. Fox and their son, Ash. However, he feels like there is something missing, something that he left behind in his old days of scheming, stealing and going on wild and dangerous adventures. He's a wild animal, as he says, and when he moves his family right in the view of the nasty trio of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, he decides it's time for one final dip into his wild side. Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't an original Wes Anderson story, but if you had no prior knowledge going in, you really wouldn't be able to notice. It feels so rooted in the things that he is known for and he distorts the source enough to fit it in perfectly with his own rhythms. There's the trademark wit, the familial themes and the subtle and incredibly smart jokes that just get funnier the more you think about them.

Anderson has such a unique mind when it comes to humor and his style is one that certainly either works for you or it doesn't, but seeing him bring that style into this new world of animation is such a bold and interesting move for him. The strangest thing about it all is his ability to adjust his tone without losing a drop of what makes him such a distinct and exciting filmmaker. This is pure Wes Anderson and watching it there's never a moment where you feel as though it's a live-action director working in animation; it feels like this is what he's been doing all along.

The sets are detailed to such an immaculate level, and given that he worked in animation this time you are able to even further admire is attention to detail with the designs of the characters themselves. This film is a treat in every way, as a family film, a witty comedy for adults and especially as a visual feast. It's one of those rare films that you can just sit and marvel at while you're watching, simply from a visual standpoint. The voice cast is loaded with Anderson regulars like Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, but for the titular animal and his wife, he brought in the new blood of George Clooney and Meryl Streep. Clooney is the perfect charmer for Mr. Fox, creating an arrogance that is charming despite his occasional narcissism and ultimately making a character who you want to root for all the way.

The set-up is very old-fashioned in pitting it's heroes against the big baddies, but Mr. Fox isn't as much the white knight as a lot of heroes are. He's got plenty of flaws that he is forced to work through, and he has to take a deep look at himself and his relationship with his family. Anderson makes sure that the film is a wickedly enjoyable time for the entire duration, but there's also a sincerity to it's emotions that adds a lot of depth in how it develops it's characters. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a far too rare treat in this day and age; something simple but remarkably effective and never anything less than exceptionally enjoyable.

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