Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Short Take: 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' [B+]

By Chase Kahn

Keeping in tune with the current trend of independent auteur's exploring the realm of children's films, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox is commercially viable, yet distinguishable as a product of the divisive, film-school savant.

It's a quietly funny, beautifully animated film, with it's autumnal stop-motion palette and intricately designed character models and top-shelf voice work. It moves quickly, spouts its post-grad geeky dialogue (written by Wes Anderson and Noah Bumbach) efficiently, all the while easily sharing the identifiable characteristics of Anderson's live-action works - family politics, love, dysfunction, staying true to yourself, etc. It also has a lovely and eccentrically-accented Alexandre Desplat score, which will largely go unnoticed because, well, this is hardly a 'prestige' picture.

In adapting the Roald Dahl children's book of the same name, Anderson and Bumbach have stayed true to the author's original vision while expanding on its themes of a fox, his family, and a trio of cantankerous shotgun-wielding farmers. It has a hipster-current of inside comedy as well as broad geriatrics and it works. It works as a Wes Anderson thing and it works as a family-friendly, mass-consumed thing. A film that knows what it is, made with care and restraint. Essentially, it's a ship that sets its course to eschew the murky waters to arrive without a hitch, opposed to perhaps taking the risky high-road and reaping the benefits.

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