Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox ★★★★★

First and second viewings: 100/100

Still cussing fantastic three watches later and will be forever. Fantastic Mr. Fox is really quite something. For one, it's undoubtedly the best film in Wes Anderson's quirky catalog and it's not even close. It is also one of the greatest animated films of all time, and is the measuring stick for all stop-motion films. I can throw endless praises towards Fantastic Mr. Fox but the highest honor I can give it is calling it one of the extra-limited films that have helped me look inward further and come to terms with who I am, and I am so grateful for that.

Nobody is perfect, but nonetheless, we try to be. Perhaps the most important part of the human condition is imperfection, but another part of that condition is the need to rise above our own nature. We're such stubborn creatures, our inability to live with the marks history, our environment, and our own actions have branded on our skin leading us to a destination that have never and will never exist. As much as we like to call ourselves "civilized", the pure truth is we're all wild animals, and in our fallibility and instinctiveness we find humanity. The blemishes on our skin differ from person to person; they are marks not of imperfection but of a special singularity. Community is not found in the conformity of every piece to a certain standard but in the harmony of many varied pieces living with and making the best out of their differences.

Nobody is perfect and nobody has to be. This particularly hit home for me, especially the first time I saw it. For a large part of my young life, I was discontent with how I was. I was this shy kid who had nothing but some brains and some talents. I found it hard to socialize and keep up with the times. As I grew, I felt a need to change-- for the worse, in retrospect-- and try to become the life of the party. I was paying more attention to the way I looked and the way I acted around people in hopes that maybe they'd think I'm not so boring after all. Who was I kidding? Maybe they did get a different impression of me but deep down I was unhappy with this change because it was so obvious to me that I'm being someone who I wasn't. Peer pressure got to me and I was all of a sudden trying to get validated by God knows who. These were unsaid truths to me and so watching Fantastic Mr. Fox for the very first time, I felt a freedom and confidence in my true self-- the shy kid with some brains and talents-- that I've never felt before. This film spoke to me.

Fantastic Mr. Fox works on so many levels, covering topics that concern an individual and the world at large's search for the true self. On one hand, it is a critique of the dehumanization of civilization and on another it is a brutally honest deconstruction of ego. It's also midlife crisis animated for children. It's just so wonderful. Based on Roald Dahl's famous novel of the same name, Fantastic Mr. Fox provides delight in its childlike playfulness and whimsy while effectively dealing with surprisingly heavy and existential themes.

Wes Anderson is beloved in some film circles and polarizing in others. Personally, he's one of my favorite directors and I love all his films. I finished his filmography a long time ago but this will be the one I will keep coming back to. Wes Anderson has probably the most distinctive visual style of any filmmaker ever. The color palettes, the painterly and hyper-symmetrical compositions, the long tracking shots and the snappy pans, the eccentric settings, and odd-looking characters are all part of Anderson's idiosyncratic unapologetically fictional worlds. No one creates a world quite like he does and the attention to detail and craftsmanship that goes into every shot deserves all recognition.

That being said, the medium of animation and the vision of Wes Anderson was a match made in heaven. Working with puppets and scale models, Anderson optimizes his creativity and eye for detail. The result is a visual feast of color and form and texture. The character motion is smooth as silk and a little more animated compared to what we can expect from real actors in live-action. Opting to make an animated film instead of a live-action one is tricky but Anderson and the animation team justify this change of gears with a masterpiece of the medium.

Anderson, a strongly visual filmmaker, is also a great storyteller. His films usually deal with flawed outcast characters with troubled or traumatic backgrounds looking for a place or a group where they can belong. In the case of Fantastic Mr. Fox, a middle-aged Mr. Fox's need for superiority, rooted from his search for validity, has placed him above and away from everyone in the animal community. All of Anderson's films contain layers of character depth beneath his trademark visuals, and his stories have the power to move someone in one way or another. The way I've always seen it, his style is merely a bonus. Collaborating with Noah Baumbach on the screenplay, Anderson magically brings Dahl's novel to life. Might I add that this is his funniest film, the deadpan line delivery and visual comedy all coming at the right moments and hitting the mark every time. And the penultimate scene--"Canis lupus, Vulpes vulpes..."-- is one of my favorite in all of cinema, summarizing the film's themes and closing Mr. Fox's arc with raised fists. Kind of makes you hold your breath.

George Clooney is perfectly cast as the title character, bringing cool and charisma voicing the dashing Mr. Fox. Meryl Streep's strong-willed and emotional presence carries over her voice work for Mrs. Fox. The standout vocal performance for me though would be Jason Schwartzman's turn as Ash. The star-studded cast including Bill Murray, Eric Chase Anderson, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, and Michael Gambon all give great performances behind the mic. Alexandre Desplat's music is fun and memorable. The vintage rock pop soundtrack is awesome as well. Fantastic Mr. Fox also falls under that group of films aimed at younger audiences that can also be enjoyed and better understood by adults. And so rewatchable, too!

I thought the first act was just a little too fast-paced for my liking and the friendly relationship between Ash and Kristofferson could've been given some more time to develop but those are just small nitpicks. This is virtually a perfect film which I have a personal connection with. My thoughts could change later or tomorrow but for now, it's ttwo points shy of my perfect rating but still high in my favorites list. Rocco, I know you're reading this and I hope you're not too salty about this!

Well, that's another pretty cussing long review but I'll end it here. Thanks for reading and I wish you all a fantastic day. *Click-click, whistle-whistle*

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