Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox ★★★★½

Wes Anderson's stop-motion take on Roald Dahl's "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is an artisanal treat. The film is a hand-made paean to the whimsy of Dahl, rendered by an artist whose own sense of whimsy is writ large on every one of his works. It is a fitting, gleefully visualized, and craftily executed combination of two talents.

The story, originated by Dahl and embellished by Anderson and Noah Baumbach, revolves around a fox family and its misadventures with local farmers. Mr. Fox, the pater familias, has a crisis of vulpine conscience, leading to his need to give up his life as a newspaper man and return to a life of chicken thievery. "Be who you are meant to be," scream the themes of the source material and film, and Anderson and company deliver a narrative that is rich, sly, and engaging.

In Anderson's capable hands, stop-motion animation is the ideal medium for the wry, corduroy clad characters and their story. Muted colors, clever personalities, and wiry woodland bodies are given life at 24 still-frames per second. Settings, costumes, and props have a tangible texture and are vibrantly realized. The pace is typical Anderson with its peaks and valleys of action and observation.

Anderson assembles an excellent voice cast. George Clooney as Mr. Fox, Meryl Streep as the Mrs., and Jason Schwartzman as their offsprung Ash, join Bill Murray and Owen Wilson to give the four-legged characters character and a quirky edge. It is a competently rich mix of standard Anderson players and well-chosen new members of the menagerie.

In Anderson's hands, "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is no kid's movie; it is a appealingly dry, warmly witty, and beautifully assembled piece of work that does not aim for any of the lower common denominators. A smart, great-looking film, it is apt to satisfy discriminating audiences with an eye for craft, an ear for wit, and a mind for universal and amusingly delivered themes.

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