Fantastic Mr Fox

Animation film voiced by Bill Murra, Michael Gambon, George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Jason Schwartzman. Directed by Wes Anderson.
Rated PG (mild crude language and animated violence). 87 mins.

Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl? Rushmore, Steve Zissou and Willy Wonka? Yes, Anderson has directed this version of Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox.

The animation is rather old-style and direct. The plot has been added to and amplified. The context is now the US and the cast, except, as usual for the villains, is American and American-accented. A bit off-putting despite the talent.
Mr Fox is a rather self-regarding chicken hunter (just ask Mrs Fox who is dominated by him). When they are caught by a trap which he dogmatically misunderstood, he reforms and becomes a journalist. Yes, it is that kind of world where the animals keep their identity but act in a human way. But, smart Mr Fox wants to be upwardly mobile and badgers a badger lawyer (Bill Murray) to buy a new tree house.

Can a fox change its equivalent to leopard's spots? No. Mr Fox and his friend Kyle go on chicken raids against the tyrannical local human industrialists (the principal one voiced by Michael Gambon).

Oh, Mr Fox is voiced by George Clooney enjoying his self-regarding style. Mrs Fox is Meryl Streep.

The Fox son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), tends to act like a spoilt brat and is jealous when the talented (martial arts, yoga and being articulate) cousin Kristofferson comes to stay.

Well, when Mr Fox is outsmarted by the humans, battle lines are drawn and Mr Fox gathers the local animals to resist. It doesn't all go according to Mr Fox's plans. He may be fantastic but he is definitely fallible. The crisis, however, does bring out the best in Ash which means that everyone can live happily ever after – as long as there is no more human intervention.

With Wes Anderson's rather wry style, the film is probably aimed at adults rather than at children.

It all comes together at the end but only to provide the basis for the next instalment from a series of novels by Darren Shan (the central character's name).

20th Century Fox  Out January 1

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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