Fantastic Mr Fox

Rating – **

fantastic-mr-fox

Wes Anderson’s defiantly old-school take on a Roald Dahl classic is intermittently amusing, but ultimately underwhelming. Stretching the source material to feature length does it a disservice and merely highlights its slight nature. I adored the book as a child, along with all the other great works of this iconic author. In particular I would exhaust the audio cassette version featuring the comforting narration of Richard Briers. I suppose nothing was ever going to top that for me. I tried to overlook the unappealing character designs and Anderson’s increasingly forced “quirkiness”, yet there’s far too many other distractions on show. This never feels like a legitimate world with established rules, even the characters don’t seem to believe in themselves. Frequent nods to the audience deliberately undermine the whole concept of talking animals, hardly what you want to be pondering when faced with nothing but this very scenario. Then there’s the unforgivable references to credit (or “platinum”) cards, estate agents, and “funny” catchphrases, just what every classic British story needs? The finale features a surreal and pretentious encounter with a wild wolf that sucks any remaining energy and goodwill from the cinema.

There are small moments to genuinely savour but they would barely fill a 30 minute ITV Christmas special, this should never have been a feature film. Yes it’s always nice to see stop motion deployed on the big screen, especially with old-school bristling fur. However, there’s an uneasy tone running throughout which seems disrespectful to the medium. It’s almost like Anderson is mocking such a wholesome and naïve art form with knowing post-modern nudges to the audience “look how cheap and dated this all looks, aren’t I clever to use it!” I’m sure he never consciously thought such things, but that’s the message subliminally broadcast through every frame. This isn’t a terrible film; it’s just very muddled, misguided, hollow, and condescending. Too dull and obscure for children, and too inconsequential for adults. Not exactly fantastic.

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~ by thewholebuffalo on November 14, 2009.

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