Photo Credit: Courtesy 20th Century Fox
For those curious what an animated Wes Anderson movie is like, here’s your answer: a whole lot like an nonanimated Wes Anderson movie. Tricked out with painstakingly crafted, obsessively detailed stop-motion animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox, adapted and expanded from the Roald Dahl story about a fox engaged in a battle of wits with three creepy farmers and his own id, fits squarely into Anderson’s canon: There’s moping; deadpan comedy; overstuffed, perfectly curated set design; an eclectic, strummy soundtrack; pathos and corduroy. There are some thrilling set pieces, chase scenes and acrobatics in Fox, but there is also a whole lot of chatter. Thankfully, there’s also a whole lot of heart.
Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, is undergoing a midlife crisis, trying to reconcile being a father and husband with his inner “wild animal.” (The movie’s best running joke is how the suit wearing, newspaper reading, extremely genteel Mr. Fox eats -- it all ends up on the floor.) Mrs. Fox, voiced by Meryl Streep, has asked her hubby to curtail his foxy, chicken-stealing ways now that they have a (mopey, adolescent) son.
Mr. Fox fails to comply, ultimately endangering his family and community by wrangling with farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean one too many times. This tension, between being a wild animal versus a well-behaved one, is one kids know a thing or two about, but most of Mr. Fox’s psychological dilemma will fly right over their head -- when it’s not boring them. What won’t bore them are Mr. Fox’s daring capers and inspired digging and, more generally, the movie’s big-hearted sweetness.