Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox ★★★★½

Watched on Amazon Prime

"Boggis, Bounce and Bean/ one short, one tall one lean/ These horrible crooks/ So different in looks/ Were none the less equally mean.

How true the children's song about the three farmers is, the hero of the title (George Clooney) learns first hand from Wes Anderson's and Noah Baumbach's ingenious animated film. The nastiest predators of all - of course, the humans - get on his fur, Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and the other forest animals. All because of a few chickens and cider that Mr. Fox stole from the farmers. The quarrel with Mr. Boggis, Bounce and Bean, however, is not about a few snacks but about survival. With murderous intentions the farmers dig up the burrow. Only a foolhardy plan can save the other animals - and a cunning crook like Mr. Fox has one, of course. Behind the amusing argument that follows is the history of universal conflicts: nature against industry, indigenous people against white puritanical settlers, anarchos against establishment.

During the opening credits, the protagonist's first pranks are accompanied by "The Ballad of Davy Crockett". The folk song is about the politician of the same name who stood up for the poor and oppressed against rich landowners. The duo Anderson/Baumbach celebrates the detailed puppet figures as an animal version of the folk hero. An outlaw from the woods he fights for, the fable-like Reynard Fox, clever, charming and quite narcissistic. The intelligent mix of action and humour based on a book by Roald Dahl shows with unusual clarity the unscrupulous greed of the human characters, with whom many viewers probably have more in common than they realize. The theft of chickens is a welcome pretext for the human attack. Sooner or later they would have come with diggers and guns anyway. The animal heroes then come to an end as frozen carcasses in the freezer of one of the hunters or as fur ties around his neck.

Mr. Fox's foxtail even ends up as a tie. Here it becomes Freudian with a wink. The loss symbolizes the psychological castration of the animal instincts threatening Mr. Fox. Accordingly, the forest dwellers' battle cry is: "We are wild animals! The story creates a counter-image to the anthropomorphization of animal figures popular in children's films. Humanisation is here synonymous with self-denial. Baumbach and Anderson tell their story in a pleasantly kitsch-free way. If one of the animals is killed, it does not become sentimental. After all, it's not about Bambi's mother, but (quote Mr. Fox): "just another dead rat in a dustbin behind a Chinese restaurant". Not least thanks to this black humour, the stop-motion flick, which is also aimed at adults, is an excellent children's film; one that takes its younger audience seriously.

When Mr. Fox finally looks his wild soul in the form of a wolf in the face, it signifies nature's final triumph in the face of its inevitable defeat. Behind the wolf silhouette, an express train races through the landscape. The battle for survival may have been won by the animals this one time, but the war continues.

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