Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

Review for Videosyncrasy film magazine
Written on Oct 23, 2009 by Blake Neale

Surprisingly very hard work getting into given this is billed as a children’s film. But that’s the film’s main problem throughout: it doesn’t know who its audience is. Typically whimsical of a Wes Anderson picture, this is far too intelligent for kiddiewinks yet not quite adult enough for anyone else to lose themselves in. Even when I finally got it twenty minutes in it remained increasingly hard work for the duration. If I wasn’t such a fan of stop motion and model/set design I doubtless would have stepped away in the opening fifteen minutes.

The syrupy, unnecessary Americanism of everything is also a deterrent as it massively grates against the British backdrop the film establishes. Shifting locations from England of the book to America for the film wouldn’t have been a problem given dialogue and imagery is left to the imagination in the former. But bringing the Fox family, with their strong American accents and love of baseball, to England to ponder their mortgage, listen to British country music and dodge heavily British farmers just doesn’t sit right. Even the warm colour palette looks like an American fall and not a British autumn as it probably should.

The models and set pieces are pretty impressive, though the animation itself isn’t as fluid as we’ve come to see recently in the likes of Coraline. Stylistically it works a treat – the fur constantly moving between frames was an inspired way of using stop motion to their advantage. But shooting at 12 frames per second (frames were traditionally doubled up from 12 to 24fps for animation in the old days) just seems a bit of an oversight having spent so long on production design, physically building the models and shooting at an exceptionally high resolution. While no disaster it stands out and to the untrained eye will seem a tad sloppy, as if cutting corners in the animation process as opposed to the stylistic decision it probably was.

Most disappointingly, Roald Dahl’s voice has almost completely been lost in favour of Anderson’s whimsy. And where the imagination and charm of the book has stuck with me some twenty years later, the film – while utterly original and silly in a fun way – has seen me coming away feeling very little.

– good but not fantastic Mr. Fox.

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