Fantastic Mr. Fox

“You are a quote unquote fantastic Mr. Fox”

“I try.”

In a masterpiece of claymation film that delivers flawlessly in aesthetics, script adaptation, colour schemes, voice acting, soundtrack, character development and plot (among other things), it’s hard to pay attention close enough to pick out the individually beautiful parts of the film, because they’re so busy intertwining with one another to create the ‘whole’ that is this gorgeous artwork.

But before we get to the good stuff, that being a (personally, very relatable) story of self identification and self discovery coupled with themes of gluttony, existentialist doubt, and families in disarray, let’s take a quick look at Wes Anderson’s style and body of work.

Fans of the famous director are no doubt familiar with his style of film, which boasts a heavy focus on very interesting characters (any of the Tenenbaum’s), their relationships to each other (Suzy Bishop and Sam), and their development (the Whitman brothers), but also have distinct and unique styles, like snowflakes (but unfortunately, his films are not infinite, and don’t fall from the sky). For example, The Grand Budapest Hotel has a cold yellow, purple, and red/pink palette, but Moonrise Kingdom sticks to reoccurring pastel yellows and greens with a mix of earthy tones throughout the majority of the film.

Anderson is also known to use the same actors throughout many of his movies, and he does so rightly because he never lacks for star power or acting quality in his films. The list is expansive, but I feel it’s necessary to get a grip of what Anderson brings to his films through cast chemistry (and also to sway you into binge watching his films – it’s unbelievably worth it.)

  • Luke Cunningham Wilson – Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
  • Owen Wilson – Bottle Rocket (1996), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
  • Kumar Paalana – Bottle Rocket (1996), Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
  • Jason Schwartzmaan  – Rushmore (1998), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
  • Bill Murray – Rushmore (1998), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Fantastic Mr. Fox  (2009), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
  • Willem Defoe – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
  • Adrien Brody – The Darjeeling Limited (2007), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

But that’s not all, there is plenty of star power in the actors he used for just one or two films, including

  • George Clooney
  • Natalie Portman
  • Jeff Goldblum
  • Meryl Streep
  • Edward Norton
  • Saiorse Ronan
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Ben Stiller
  • Danny Glover

If that isn’t enough to convince you to watch at least one of his movies, it’s a lost cause. Stop reading, and go on with your life, blissfully unaware of what you’re missing out on.

When it comes to a list of his best movies, there are no definite leaders. Some rise above others, but there will never be a generally agreed upon hierarchy. Personally, Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favourite of his many glorious films, and that isn’t an easy decision to make.

To start off on this Oscar nominated, award winning film, here’s a few shots:

mr-fox-1

(Opening scene, to the tune “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”)

mr-fox-waterfall

(Preceding a moment of self reflection)

cider

(In the middle of a daring heist)

The visuals kept me entranced from start to finish, but what really engaged me in the film was the (all too relatable) story of Mr. Fox and his wife, Felicity.

**SPOILERS AHEAD**

(But if you haven’t seen it by now, I mean, come on)

The movie immediately appealed to me when I first turned it on because of the strikingly beautiful colours and fast paced movement of scenes, but it kept me hooked using Mr. Fox’s (personally relatable) mission of self identification.

Feeling unsatisfied with his life as a news paper columnist after retiring from the high-stakes high-reward game of bird thieving (as a fox does), Mr. Fox moves his son and wife into a brand new beautiful oak tree against the advice of his lawyer. It’s at this time that his nephew, Kristofferson, a “natural” at everything, as Mr. Fox describes him, comes to stay with their family for a fair bit of of time. Ash, Mr. Fox’s son, could be described as the polar opposite of tall, talented, and attractive Kristofferson. Predictably, Ash grows very jealous of his cousin, and a rift opens up between them.

Ash is living in his cousins’ and fathers’ shadows, unable to be the star his father was or the star his cousin is, and so he acts out by dressing and acting “differently” from the norm of animal high school cliques. He’s described as “different” multiple times by other animal kids, and even once by his father.

As the move doesn’t bring joy to his life, Mr. Fox decides to return to his wild animal life of bird thieving, but decides not to inform his wife due to a vow he made to her some years before. Mr. Fox tellingly doesn’t think too far ahead about consequences, and perpetuates hits on three of the biggest farming enterprises and also their owners, the three meanest farmers in England.

After angering the farmers, his family and entire animal community are condemned to live underground in dire situations with little supplies and no hope. This is when the pivotal scene of the movie takes shape.

Mr. Fox is confronted by his wife for his eccentric and self centred behaviour, and he goes off on a monologue, saying, “I think I have this thing where everybody has to think I’m the greatest, the quote unquote ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’, and if they aren’t completely knocked out and dazzled and slightly intimidated by me, I don’t feel good about myself.”

Whew. Deep stuff. For me, that was like turning into a brick wall.

That quote solves the identity crisis Mr. Fox has been undergoing throughout the entire film.

This is also when Ash asks his mother if he is “different” and she, in her infinite wisdom, replies, “we’re all different” and indicating her husband, she continues, “especially him. But there’s something fantastic about that, isn’t there?”

After he comes to his revelation, Mr. Fox plots a way to get all the animals to work together using their unique abilities (AKA differences) and beat the nasty farmers through an elaborate and intense plan involving wolves,  rabid beagles, burning pine cone bombs, tiny motorcycles, daring rescues, one coming of age tale, and a side of fries.

I believe that everyone should watch this movie because there’s a high chance you’ll leave it with an enlightened view of your own self. If not, even a toddler can appreciate the beautiful production of this film. In other words, if not the depth then the beauty will entrap you. As a clever, sly fox once said, “…even these apples look fake, but at least they’ve got stars on them.”

 

 

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