Monday, May 17, 2010

The BC Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

It is certainly safe to say this reviewer thoroughly enjoys the comedic timing and (often) adorable characters of the animated genre. Watching such films as Dreamworks Animation's Shrek (and its extensive line of not one, two, or even three, but upcoming fourth sequels) and Disney-Pixar's Toy Story (again following the trend with Toy Story 2 and now Toy Story 3), one becomes accustomed to simple story lines (with a distinct moral/lesson-to-be-learned) and quirky characters. The latest animated feature to follow its predecessors and hit the big screen is based on the children's storybook author, Roald Dahl's, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Released in 2009, Fantastic Mr. Fox was nominated for 2 Oscars (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures and Best Animated Feature Film of the Year). Despite it's losses, the film deserves the accolades that accompany an Academy Award nomination. Of note, the picture shies away from the modern affects of computer-generated imagery and steers more towards an "old school" Wallace and Gromit appearance with the characters. The audience is also treated to the voices of a who's who of the movie industry to include: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and even Mario Batali (as the talented Rabbit chef).

The story is centered on Mr. Fox (voiced by non other than George Clooney), a lean, long, and witty chicken thief-turned-Newspaper columnist and his supporting cast of woodland friends. The audience is treated to Clooney's overture as the charismatic, yet humble (?), Mr. Fox as he tries (and ultimately fails) to adjust to a life far from the thrills and chills of his former life and settles into a foxhole with his wife (played by Meryl Streep) and for all intents and purposes, dimwitted, son, Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman). At the behest of Mrs. Fox, Mr. Fox must end his thrill-seeking days and settle into a much safer life; a somewhat problematic set of rules for Mr. Fox, worsened by a sense of monetary underachieving.

Integral to the plot line is the arrival of Ash's cousin, Kristofferson Silverfox (voiced by the film director's brother, Eric Anderson). Much to Ash's dismay, Kristofferson is everything he is not; tall with an attractive coat, athletic, worldly (the silverfox practices Yoga on a daily basis), and to add insult to injury, succeeds in wooing the object of Ash's affection. The relationship between Ash and his cousin gives us a thoroughly enjoyable comedic interlude between Mr. Fox's nail-biting nightly raids.

Despite the wishes (and wise advice) of his wife, Mr. Fox becomes determined to purchase a upper-middle class home; a tree with the financial assistance of his lawyers (also furry woodland creatures) and the moral support of his best friend, Badger (the badger) voiced by the distinctive, Bill Murray. Following the purchase of his new home, Mr. Fox spies an enticing opportunity, the existence of not one, but three farms within eyesight from the trees' branches, owned by non-other-than three of the ugliest, meanest, and shrewdest English businessmen; Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. A credit to their horror, a song, devised by local children is sung in their honor:

Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were nonetheless equally mean

The introduction to Boggis, Bunce, and Bean is strikingly reminiscent of the diabolical Mrs. Tweedy from a similarly-crafted animated feature, Chicken Run (recall Mel Gibson as Rocky the adventure-seeking Chicken). Following two sneak attacks at the hands of Mr. Fox, Badger, and on the third night, Kristofferson; Boggis, Bunce, and Bean devise a plan to root out their new found woodland pests and destroy them by any means necessary. From this point on, the audience is taken on a wild ride as we watch the three farmers desperately try to reach Mr. Fox and his cohorts.

Fantastic Mr. Fox comes recommended for fans of the animated genre and the Fantastic Mr. Clooney.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B