Fantastic Mr. Fox Wes Anderson

Fantastic Mr. Fox Wes Anderson
At first blush, perhaps Wes Anderson - known for his bone-dry, sardonic takes on family dynamics and the crushing ennui of Western culture in films like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic - isn't the obvious choice for a stop-motion animated film based on a book by Roald Dahl. But looking at the stunning accomplishment of Fantastic Mr. Fox, it's hard to imagine it any other way. It's the story of Mr. Fox (voiced to perfection by George Clooney), an ambitious fox who's looking to better his life by taking on the three tyrannical farmers who rule the valley he calls home. But from the very first frame, what captivates about Fox is its look - a stunning combination of beautifully designed and rendered stop-motion characters and the intricate detail of pored-over backgrounds. It's exactly what Anderson has always brought to his live action movies (just one bedroom in the Tenenbaums house is proof), but here, there's no pesky "reality" to get in his way, no "humanity" in the form of actors and lighting crew and locations to mar the perfection he's trying to achieve. While some have criticized his films for being cold and controlled, in animation, control is the foundation of the work - instead of trying to harness the unpredictable energies of people, Anderson (and a huge team, including 81 shooting units) is bringing life to inanimate objects he can and must control in every frame of the film. And it brings out a creative richness in him that's perhaps been missing in his last couple of more disappointing efforts. Writing once again with fellow director Noah Bambauch, Anderson's humour suffuses Mr. Fox; in tone, dialogue and emotion, it couldn't have been made by anyone else. But as meticulous as the animation construction is, the recording of the voice cast (which includes Bill Murray as a badger/lawyer, Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson and Jarvis Cocker) was completely unconventional - recording on location, doing scenes together so that voices overlap naturally, even digging around in fields. That might be all so much actorly hoo-ha, but the on-screen results can't be argued with. Fantastic Mr. Fox is not just an incredible artistic accomplishment; it's the first thing in years to walk up to Pixar's door, knock and challenge for animation supremacy. Extras on the Blu-Ray/DVD/download combo pack give some fascinating insight into Wes Anderson's first foray into this type of animation, as well as a guided tour by his muse and collaborator Bill Murray, and some fascinating insights from animators not familiar with Anderson's unique and particular vision. The final result is not just great animation, but one of the very best films of the year. (Fox Searchlight)