Last week I had the pleasure of attending a screening of Wes Anderson’s newest foray into style and humor (most people call this a movie), Fantastic Mr. Fox. I don’t normally use phrases like “I had the pleasure of..” but it really was a pleasure! I don’t mean like the dirty, carnal pleasure I get out of something sexy and dark like, I don’t know, My Own Private Idaho. It was more like the cheery, warm please of macaroni & cheese. But not the orange Kraft Dinner dinner kind. The expensive kind covered in fresh bread crumbs with some Gruyere (the snobbiest of cheeses).
The movie is based on a story by Roald Dahl. I’m not familiar with this particular story, but I get the feeling that Anderson added a lot more to it in this imagining. Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is an aging reporter who longs for one last chance to act like a fox (i.e., harassing and stealing from farmers) despite the reservations of his wife (Meryl Streep). With the help of his inept but well meaning friend Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky) he orchestrates his last big score.
Since a movie needs conflict, something goes awry and Mr. Fox, Kylie and the rest of the animals have to go about finding away to survive an all out assault from a trio of evil farmers.
And it is soooo cute.
I’ll certainly admit to being a big fan of Wes Anderson. Rushmore is definitely among my most favorite movies of all time. It doesn’t take a film major to realize that, though the scripts are rife with clever humor and the stories are fun and quirky, what sets his films apart from any number of other indie-quirky-cutesy movies is the obsessive attention to production design and the ephemeral idea of good taste and style. Wes Anderson has style in droves.
With this in mind, I think Anderson left what will be a lasting impression on the genre of stop motion animation. The details of the characters in Fantastic Mr. Fox are exquisite (there is another word I don’t use very much). Their furry little faces gleam, their character traits are as alive, distinguishable and compelling as any (dare I say more compelling than more) live actor. In short, this movie is beautiful. Now, I saw Wall-E and I saw Up. To me, these movies rely on tugging heartstrings and, at times, very effective character development to be compelling. When CG animation looks “good” it looks “real.” This movie doesn’t look real, it looks beyond real. It looks alive and magical. It still has a cute story, some very funny scenes and even very memorable voice performances, but what really makes it special is that it is so fun to look at. Even if there was no sound, it would be visually compelling. I hate to make yet another corny statement about it, lest I be branded some kind of Wes Anderson fangirl (um…) but in short, this movie is more than a movie — it’s art.