Directed by Wes Anderson
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is the marvelous cutaway of the ship (at sea, supposedly), with people walking from one end to another, conversing all the time. What I remember about “The Royal Tenenbaums” is the casual acceptance of the bizarre, as though the bizarre were right and you and I and society itself all turned out to be wrong. What I remember about “The Darjeeling Limited” was the enormous set of Louis Vuitton luggage that had to be carried everywhere but never opened.
And oddly enough, what I remember about “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is the cartoonish way characters’ eyes change from looking forward to reflecting confusion or hurt by having their eyeballs turn into rotating little spirals or Xes in closeup. What it says, of course, is that this is a Wes Anderson film, which is both a good and a bad thing. In a sense, Mr. Anderson is a bit like Tim Burton; we can pick apart their films, but at the same time we’re grateful that they make them at all because no one else does it like they do.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a riff on Roald Dahl’s children’s book; I say a riff, because Anderson and his co-writer Noah Baumbach have used the superb little book, with its rhymes and incredibly neat story and taken it into a whole new dimension, something like a jazz riff that starts with the original melody, goes way off into the musician’s own head, and then comes back at the end to the melody again. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Here I’m not so sure. Instead of focusing on the tug of war between Mr. Fox and the evil trilogy of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, we have a whole world below-ground: Mr. and Mrs. Fox, their son, his cousin, their lawyer, and a whole slew of neighbors and friends. The goal is still the same: to find a way to steal chickens from Boggis, Bunce and Burns and bring them below to be eaten.
But Anderson and Baumbach have put almost too much into the film that does not advance the plot or reveal character, but seems almost like seeing how clever they can be, something like throwing filler at the wall and watching to see which will stick. The voices of the actors are fine, but the lines are dull; that should never happen in an animated film. Maybe Anderson should choose another co-writer next time; he’s done it before and it worked.