Elliott’s review published on Letterboxd:
A Brief Essay on Fantastic Mr Fox
Crowd-pleasing, hilarious and stylized to within an inch of its life, Wes Anderson’s delightful debut animated feature is a symmetrical panorama of the innocence of childhood that plays out as if a jubilant pop-up book has been placed on the screen. Anderson masterfully adapts his distinct camera-work, characters and cinematograph techniques with the immediacy of comedy and story-telling required for an animated movie in a masterful display of the power of the animated form as it uses it to add humour in the comedically jerky and fast movement of the characters and add a flavour of the jubilance of youth to a witty and wry tale of aging and maturity.
Don’t let the superb animation and bright colour pallets get you wrong though, like most Anderson films, Fantastic Mr Fox is a character study first and foremost with an emotional moral for adults about learning how to mature and age with your family regardless of social status- after all Foxy ends the film up in an underground sewer with little food (until the final minutes) with a bounty over his head. As unsubtle as this message is throughout most of Anderson’s films from Bottle Rocket until Moonrise Kingdom this movie conveys it from its very conceit, the form of animation telling the story, the storybook opening and cartoonish and innocent style; these all contribute to a welcoming and warm tone that carries the film through. Throughout, Mr Fox tells his wife that he’s just `a wild animal` as an excuse for his wrongdoings- it’s possible that a wild animal is another way for saying, `a child at heart`. His whole persona of having to be the `Fantastic Mr Fox` all the time is the very essence of the self-importance whilst all his wrongdoings harken back to a time of more freedom and less responsibility.
At its core Anderson’s filmography is split up in to two segments, films about adults acting like kids (The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited, Bottle Rocket) and kids acting like adults (Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore) but Fantastic Mr Fox strikes and interesting and absorbing blend which walks the line between emotion and wit to create a unique and intriguing focal point to his filmography. The film has the childish charm and crow-pleasing cinematic sensibilities in its humour and style of Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel (leading many to refer to it as a re-set point back to the comedy in his filmography) but many choose to overlook and/or ignore the insightful thematic undertones that link it to his earlier, more critically lukewarm, works.
The ideas of responsibility are further explored within the exquisite score courtesy of Alexandre Desplat. The delightfully warm and whimsical instrumental jingle-type orchestrations and string arrangements representing the optimism of childhood whilst the 1960s songs from The Beach Boys speak about the cheery and upbeat freedom of Foxy’s past. In fact, let’s look at a scene early on in the film where Mr Fox contemplates his very existence on the balcony with Kylie; one of the best parts of the entire movie. Alexandre Desplat’s beautifully moving theme for Kristofferson plays, it’s Kristofferson’s theme because Foxy sees a younger version of himself in him. After all, Kristofferson is athletic (both good wack-bat players), he’s tough, he’s intelligent- everything Foxy was once was before kids and a wife restricted him to an office job and a stable home.
It’s no secret that in his films Anderson makes his characters a little bit like himself, Jack in The Darjeeling Limited’s tendency to play music appropriate to the scene is much like what Anderson does, The Life Aquatic’s Steve Zissou is a meticulous film-maker with a distinct style but fading box office results, but Mr Fox is the biggest example of this. They’re both perfectionists, somewhat cocky, stylish and full of character- Anderson emphasises this in his costume design; taken from his very wardrobe.
I would never watch a behind the scenes featurette of Fantastic Mr Fox because I would never want to break the illusion: I believe in these characters and their goals to the point where I don’t even consider it an animated movie- just a masterpiece which I have seen probably thirty times in my life.
This Movie Was Part of my 1001 Movies To See Before You Die Journey: letterboxd.com/ellster2005/list/my-1001-movies-to-see-before-you-die-journey/