Honestly, I can’t think of what would fit Wes Anderson’s aesthetic better than a stop-motion movie featuring talking anthropomorphic animals adapted from a British children’s book from the 70s. Fantastic Mr. Fox delivered the complete package of Anderson sensibilities.
The titular Mr. Fox (George Clooney) works for a newspaper. He lives a simple life with Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) and their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) in a hole in the ground. However, Mr. Fox is not content with his current life. You see, Mr. Fox isn’t always a column writer; he was a bird-stealing fox cat burglar, but he switched to a less dangerous line of work on his wife’s request. But before he settles down for good, Mr. Fox decides to execute a triple-prong heist with the superintendent of his new house, Kylie the possum, and go out with a bang. The local human farmers do not take the act of theft kindly, and they band together and plan their retaliation against the thieves. The results not only have far-reaching consequences for the Fox family but for the animal community as well.
The performances in this movie were a huge part of its charm. Anderson ensured the performances would match his vision by recording his own performance as a reference for the animators. Clooney was the perfect fit as Mr. Fox, his voice encapsulated the suave charisma of a gentleman thief. The rest of Anderson’s usual suspects did a wonderful job as well. One thing I particularly loved about Fantastic Mr. Fox was the way the voices were recorded. Instead of recording the actors in a studio like a normal animated film would do, the actors performed their scenes in real environments (out in a farm, inside a house, etc.) while enacting their actions. The result was a natural, authentic acoustic signature that provided deeper immersion.
Of course, being an Anderson movie, beneath Fantastic Mr. Fox’s enchanting facade lies a sense of loss. Who am I? Where am I heading? Anderson never stops plucking the strings of insecurity. Despite Mr. Fox’s average but wholesome family life, he could not help but feel incomplete. The part he thought he was missing was the need to constantly live up to his Fantastic moniker and the reputation that came with it. His ego blinded him from seeing his self-worth and from seeing his son’s worth, who also lives under the Fantastic shadow. Fantastic Mr. Fox is about coming to terms and getting emotionally validated, even though some validations in the film did not come with a larger lesson.
Although the animation was not as smooth and emotive as Isle of Dogs, Fantastic Mr. Fox is still quite a looker. Wrapped inside the exquisite art direction is a story about a family made for both children and their parents, and enough humor for both parties to be entertained.