Saturday, December 12, 2009

Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Unfortunately, even the great directors sometimes direct big fat stinkers. Spielberg has done it. Lucas has done it. So has Scorsese and Jackson. But what about Wes Anderson? Okay, so he doesn't really aim as high as the other directors on the list when it comes to scale, but so far he hasn't made a bad movie.

Bottle Rocket - Cult classic
Rushmore - Brilliant... his best work.
the Royal Tenenbaums - Genius... my favorite of his.
the Life Aquatic - Sorely underrated
the Darjeeling Limited - Overlooked gem (though wouldn't it be a million times better if Luke Wilson was cast in place of Adrian Brody?)

I love all of these quirky movies, but did Fantastic Mr. Fox live it to its predecessors? Here's a hint: So far I've spent the entire review avoiding the film, and the first paragraph is a little obvious with its foreshadowing. Mediocre Mr. Fox falls way short, and is mostly an interesting, bizzare, and shallow movie. How is it that Rotten Tomatoes scored this one as 92% fresh?

Critics are praising the voice work, led by Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray. I thought all of the voice acting and dialogue to be blank and dull, probably to keep in pace with the blank, dull puppets. All the actors felt out of place except for Wally Wolodarsky as the opossum, but I'm apparently one of the few that felt this way.

The animation and set pieces were definitely unique, and that was primarily what works for the movie. It's supposed to be offbeat; not quite for kids, yet not quite for adults either. Not really a cartoon, and not really live action. The techniques are ambitious and intentionally different from any other movie this year, but they aren't best suited to the story provided. I know that it's about a fox who has settled down, yet it's his nature to steal and be mischievous. Along with that is a lot of family drama and neighborly conflict, but I rarely had time to really care for or process the plot. I was constantly drawn to the stylized look of the film.

And in the end, that's really what killed it for me. I left the theater thinking, "okay, what was my favorite part of the movie?" and came up with nothing. After a few minutes I gave up and decided that I enjoyed the music for the montage when all the animals are digging. The bottom line is that the film looks weird and great, but the characters and story are bland and dull.


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