Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox ★★★★★

Like all of Wes Anderson’s films, Fantastic Mr. Fox is impeccably styled with gorgeous design and loving attention to intricate details. His creative team’s dedication is even more apparent in his fully-animated features, as the scale is so small that you can almost see the army of hands moving characters and assembling sets. The color, costuming, shot composition, character designs, and sets are all top-notch — it’s a criticism cliché, but every frame of this movie could be a compelling painting.

What sets Fantastic Mr. Fox apart from Anderson’s other work, though, isn’t the visual style — all of his movies look great. What makes Fantastic Mr. Fox so special is its screenplay. While the movie fits comfortably in Anderson’s filmography, it’s equally reminiscent of cowriter Noah Baumbach’s work, especially projects like The Meyerowitz Stories and The Squid and the Whale. Anderson’s dialogue tends to favor deadpan straightforwardness, while Baumbach’s feels more natural and lived-in. The conversations in Fantastic Mr. Fox seem more Baumbachian than Andersonian, as the animals often talk relaxedly and occasionally meanderingly.

Thematically, Fantastic Mr. Fox falls nicely into the middle of the Anderson-Baumbach Venn diagram, as it focuses on the destructive effects of unchecked male hubris, with special attention to narcissists’ broken families. Almost all of these filmmakers’ movies grapple with similar issues, but this one is unique because of its childlike optimism. In Fantastic Mr. Fox, arrogance can be channeled into an asset for one’s community, and selfishness is a vice that can eventually be overcome. Very few of Anderson’s and Baumbach’s films exhibit hopefulness as explicitly and frequently as Fantastic Mr. Fox does. 

This movie is so good that it makes me wish every director would make at least one animated movie. The medium allows for expanded creative opportunities for visuals and storytelling. But perhaps more importantly, animation’s assumedly younger target audience often prompts filmmakers to boil down their signature styles and themes to their absolute essentials. The effect is twofold — it maximizes young viewers’ understanding of the movie, but also reveals the filmmakers’ fundamental essences and clarifies what really makes them tick as they tell a simple story.

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