Friday, November 20, 2009

Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox

For the record, there is nothing wrong with computer animation. Pixar has proven numerous times that it’s entirely possible to create a visually spectacular work that relies solely on digital rendering. It must also be noted though that Pixar's films are kind of like brilliant gems floating in a filth encrusted ocean of churned out CGI sewage. Computer animation is becoming easier, cheaper, and more efficient and standards for animated films are becoming lower because of the output.

Then there are films like Henry Selick's Coraline and Wes Anderson's latest work, Fantastic Mr. Fox, that utilize stop motion animation. 2009 has been a year for raising the bar in the world of animation, and I give most of that credit to these two films. There is, of course more to Fantastic Mr. Fox than old-school animation techniques.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on Roald Dahl's classic children's book of the same title. The story follows the life of Mr. Fox, a loving father and husband whose actions are sometimes made without considering the consequences. What is probably the most amazing thing about the movie is that Anderson is able to make animal puppets seem human to a level where the viewer has no trouble sympathizing or understanding the tension between family members. Family issues have been a theme in Anderson's more recent work, and it absolutely carries over into Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Anderson's visual style also translates seamlessly into the film all the way down to the Futura Bold font and chapter titles. The world of Mr. Fox is crafted in yellows, oranges, browns, and reds. It is difficult to deny that it is absolutely beautiful to look at.

It’s important to remember that the "for children" label must be used loosely with Roald Dahl. Richard Wylde elaborated on this point in an earlier Arts Section review of "The Twits". Dahl is a fan of subtle adult humor that pairs perfectly with Anderson's clever dialogue style. Fantastic Mr. Fox never feels like Anderson is limiting his dark humor because he is catering to a younger audience. He captures all of the grittiness in Dahl's work with an ease that makes you wonder why he hadn’t made this movie already.

I honestly believe that Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson's strongest work since The Royal Tenenbaums. It has the same cohesiveness and splendor that made The Royal Tenebaums so refreshing. The movie feels complete and approachable while still challenging the viewer and not insulting the intelligence of a younger audience. It is an incredible accomplishment for animation and a must see for everyone who simply wants to have a good time.

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