Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox ★★★★½

Wes Anderson could have hung it up after this and been all right. Aside from Rushmore, this is the purest expression of Wes Andersoness put forward. Everything else is attempts to recapture something quintessential to varying degrees of success.

The completely constructed reality the film takes place in is a logical extension of the world that Mr. Anderson operates in. And that's incredibly freeing for the work that he's doing. Instead of having to work to incorporate his estate sale aesthetic and Max Fischer play dialogue into the real world, which is always offering low level resistance to these things, he can just sculpt characters and settings from nothing and have a universe that abides entirely by his rules. Mr. Anderson must have found it freeing, anyway, because this is the exemplar of his best qualities; wistful humor and whimsy done with earnestness and craft, which he accomplished without any of the time spent up his own ass that marked the later Isle of Dogs.

As a technical achievement, this film is incredible. Stop motion is nothing new. The amount of expressiveness in each character may be. The humans, all rubbery caricature, are no match for the subtle facial characterization of the animals. And the voice acting is unlike most other animated features, which most of the time feel like an actor's vocalizations skin grafted onto a character. George Clooney and Meryl Streep achieve a symbiosis here that's rare. Watching this film conjures up what I imagine the reaction must have been to an expertly produced puppet show, before that art form was the province of the affected and the sexually depraved.

If a director can be measured by his impact on vernacular, this is one for the Oxford cabal. You're disloyal. You wrote a bad song, Petey. Whackbat. I weigh less than a slice of bread. Chronic rabies. These all continue to well up unconsciously in my speech years after the fact. Wes Anderson, when he's good, plays in a very particular, shared psychic space with his viewers. This was him at his best, and to walk away from the craft at this point would not have diminished him in the slightest.

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