A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 23 – Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox – March 23, 2010

So, Wes Anderson has always struck me as someone who likes dioramas. You know the things. Kids make them in shoe boxes. But he likes little details and still pictures that have entire stories in them. So really, a movie that’s all stop motion animation is pretty damn perfect. I’m glad to have this one on DVD too, because it means we can pause and look at the details (like the chef Rabbit wearing orange crocs like Mario Batali’s). That was impossible when we saw this in the theater.

Now, this is a Wes Anderson movie, so it’s quirky and full of bizarre moments, but it’s based on a children’s book. But then, it’s based on a Roald Dahl book. So bizarre and quirky is really rather fitting. When I saw the previews for this I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. The idea of a stop-motion animated version of Fantastic Mr. Fox seemed perfect, but I’m always wary of short children’s books being made into full length feature films. It can be a really difficult thing to add enough to the story to get a feature out of it while retaining the spirit of the original. A lot of movies fail, but a few succeed spectacularly (I’ll get to talk about Shrek eventually but I urge people to go find the picture book it’s based on). I’d say Fantastic Mr. Fox succeeds. And given the reactions of the audience I saw it with, it was well received by both kids and adults – at different moments – which is pretty much how I view Roald Dahl’s work.

I really enjoyed the movie. The characters were built up well and the plot was expanded in a way that doesn’t make it something entirely other than what it started as. The original story is a fairly simple one, so it would have been easy to add and add and add until it was unrecognizable, but that didn’t happen, thank goodness. It’s got some great moments, like the scene outside the tree with the Fox family that has a song from Disney’s Robin Hood playing in the background – they’re foxes, get it? When Bean goes nuts in his trailer and trashes it, that there is some amazing animation as well as a great character moment. The weird rambling song in the middle and Bean’s admonishment that his assistant wrote a bad song! And every time the animals eat it makes me laugh.

But now I’m sort of at a loss as to what else to say. If you like Wes Anderson’s stuff, definitely take a look. If you like Roald Dahl’s books, it’s worth seeing the movie. But if either one of them rubs you the wrong way, I’d say let it go. Because the movie is a good marriage of the two styles. Then again, if you’re a stop-motion animation fan, it’s a lovely piece of art in that respect too. And if you’re like me, you’ll end up going through the movie and pausing a billion times to see just what’s been hidden away in the background and edges and places you can’t always see when you’re paying attention to the plot.

March 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 2 Comments

Fantastic Mr. Fox

March 23, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox

This is a Wes Anderson movie.  By which I do not simply mean that it is written and directed by Wes Anderson (although it undeniably is.)  What I mean is that when you settle down to watch this movie you’ve got to be prepared for a certain particular kind of anarchy.  Because Wes Anderson has made a career out of making Wes Anderson movies.  He’s created his own genre of film.  You have your action films, your dramas and comedies, and then there’s your Wes Anderson movies.

“I’m not different… am I?”

“We all are.  Especially him.  But that’s kind of fantastic.”

If you know what to expect from these movies then you might, as I did, think it odd that this is purportedly a children’s movie.  Wes Anderson doesn’t seem likely to make children’s movies.  He makes movies for himself, and I love him for it.  His films are full of neurotic characters who don’t really know what they want and are fundamentally flawed.  Things don’t turn out the way you’d expect them to.  And although the characters rarely get what it was they wanted, they usually find a way to come to grips with being themselves.  So how does that work in a mainstream Hollywood animated film?

The answer is: particularly well.  For one thing the movie is based on a book by Roald Dahl.  Roald Dahl is a very strange author who writes very strange books which don’t pander to children.  It’s actually a perfect fit.

For another thing there’s the animation in this film.  It isn’t concerned with being perfect.  It isn’t all clean lines and smooth surfaces like an early Pixar film.  The fur is mussed, the human puppets are almost gruesome (though quite expressive) and the fire and explosions are all paper cut outs and cotton balls.  The animation itself, particularly in the wide shots, is almost joyously simple.  And yet there are a few segments that must have taken an unbelievable amount of work.

And Wes Anderson’s particular form of verbal patter is perfectly suited for this chaotic art form.  His characters are often brutally honest with each other.  Indeed it’s a trope of his work to have a character baldly and blatantly tell another character something obvious that they probably don’t want to hear about themselves.  His characters are self-absorbed, caught up in their own lives and often oblivious.  Which is strange for a children’s movie – but that’s what’s so cussing perfect about it.

All in all the movie has a great charm to it.  All of these things that on paper you wouldn’t expect to work together blend together into something strange and wonderful.

Oh, and of particular note is the eclectic sound track.  In much of the movie incidental music is replaced by the music the characters are listening to, which is a strange mix of theme songs, pop songs, and even opera.  (If you consider Porgy and Bess opera.)  And the original music for the film has a fun twangy folksy feel to it.  All of it gives the film an other-worldly quality.  It’s like a folk tale of its own, something filled with deeper references and layers.  I definitely feel like with each additional viewing I will be discovering new little tidbits and nuances that I had missed before.  (There’s so much happening in some scenes that there’s simply no way to catch it all in one viewing.)  And I do hope there will be many, many more viewings to come!

March 23, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | 1 Comment