Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker, Adrien Brody, Wes Anderson
Words – Rhiannon Topham
“And so it begins…” These are the prophetic words of the titular vulpine as our Fantastic Mr. Fox derails the settled life he has built for his family among a community of animals.
In this character, Wes Anderson donned his eccentricity hat once again to honour one of the most beloved characters created by a supposed hero of his, Roald Dahl, in his first stop-motion animation endeavour, and indeed his only film adaptation to date.
Apologies for pandering to the “all-star cast” cliche, but a lineup led by George Clooney and Meryl Streep with support from Anderson favourites Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody, with an excellent cameo role from Jarvis Cocker as the idiosyncratic banjo-playing employee Petey to Michael Gambon’s menacing turkey and apple farmer Franklin Bean, is ensemble worthy of our reverence. And there is something especially humorous about the waspish old farmer Bean telling (the voice of) one of Britain’s most iconic singer-songwriters that his nonsense campfire jingle was “just bad songwriting… you wrote a bad song Petey!”
A cast of puppets didn’t dissuade Anderson from the emblematic aestheticism which has garnered his cinematic oeuvre international reverence, and spurred the expression “that’s very Wes Anderson”.
I think the scene where Franklin Bean emerges at the top of his cellar stairs, shrouded by darkness, lit solely by the flame of an inhaled cigarette, as Mr. Fox and his trusted sidekick Kylie the opossum hide nervously among the apple cider they intend to steal from him, is perfect.
Not only are we treated to that cinematographic perfection, but we also get: the prefatory book cover as seen in The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Grand Budapest Hotel; the binocular point of view shot, also made famous by his succeeding feature in 2012, Moonrise Kingdom; the symmetrical framing composition; the horizontal tracking shot of the main characters progressing through an important and well-choreographed scene. They’re all there, they just look different and aren’t as smooth as his live-action features – but this was an intentional move by Anderson, who said he wanted his viewers to notice and celebrate stop-motion as an art form, and so decided to evade the smooth look of other stop-motion animations such as Coraline in favour of the jerky, stop-start movement seen with Mr. Fox and co.
There are some that say the film doesn’t represent the true spirit of Roald Dahl’s wit and charisma, or indeed the darker aspects to his stories, but on the whole this is a film which brings together the imaginations of two great storytellers, and offers just enough deadpan humour to off-balance the light-hearted enchantment of the story to appeal to young viewers expecting a foxy fairytale, and older fans wanting to appease their craving for some Anderson excellence.
The latest feature from director Wes Anderson
– Isle Of Dogs is released Friday March 30th, 2018