Imagine the colorful and eccentric world of Wes Anderson. Then sprinkle in the amazing stop-motion styling of classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or the more contemporary The Nightmare Before Christmas — add a dash of George Clooney, and presto — you’d have the Fantastic Mr Fox. And having reviewed the Blu-ray edition, be prepared for a crystal sharp experience — that’s so rich and textured you’ll quickly want a repeat viewing.
Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is based on the Roald Dahl children’s novel of the same name. The stylish Mr. Fox has retired from chicken thievery and is now a journalist and family man. Bored with his staid life, however, he decides to make a brief return to crime that will put him at odds with local farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Released in the autumn of 2009, Fox was produced by Regency Enterprises and Indian Paintbrush, and features the wonderful voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray. It is the first animated film directed by Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, and The Royal Tenenbaums), and the first stop-motion animated film to be distributed by 20th Century Fox. The film was nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score at the 82nd Academy Awards. The film has also nominated for the 2010 Critics Choice Awards for Best Animated Feature, and the film was also nominated for The 2010 Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, but ultimately lost all the nominations to Up.
Regardless of losing the Oscar to Up (What the Cuss!?!), Fantastic Mr Fox is a superior effort — and visually arresting on Blu-ray. It’s smart as a fox and intelligent family filmmaking, the type of movie the kids (well, smart kids) will continually pop into the DVD player. With the Digital Copy, they can take Mr Fox along for the ride, on the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and iWhatever. We applaud when a Digital Copy is included with a Blu-Ray, that’s worth the purchase alone.
As stated above, “smart” kids, and parents too, will love this movie. If you’re a Wal-mart/Shek fan, maybe not. It might be “too British.” Or “too clever.” Or “too good.” It’s not for everyone, but that’s how I feel about Wes Anderson — one of my favorite directors. Of course, I belong to Team Zissou — so there… As is often the case with Wes’s films, Mr. Fox is designed beautifully with that consistent sense of colorful minimalism that spawns a magical visual aesthetic: a style that flourishes when animated. The film’s story is wonderful; both funny, entertaining, and having a strong moral/ethical lesson but its Anderson’s direction and various technical aspects that make Fantastic Mr. Fox as fantastic as it is. It’s rare for one to mention costume design when referring to an animated film, but the costume design here is wonderful. The characters and sets are intricately designed, showcasing Anderson’s attention to detail. It’s a painstaking process to make a stop-motion feature and its clear watching the film that the filmmakers wanted to make sure that they were putting their time to great use.
Like Anderson’s live-action works, Fantastic Mr. Fox owes much of its charm to the scattered, random and quirky nature of the material and its presentation, with a narrative so full of side forays and offbeat, eccentric characters that the movie feels as if it’s constantly renewing itself as it’s going along. There is wonderful voice work by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Willem Dafoe, clever in-joke references to spaghetti westerns and “Rebel Without a Cause,” a funny subplot involving Fox’s son and his obsession with proving his athletic prowess to his inattentive dad, and a simple, clean, streamlined look that combines a minimum of stop-motion movement with remarkably true-to-life backgrounds.
Fantastic Mr Fox is highly recommened on Blu-ray, where every rich detail of this stop motion world is on display in 1080p clarity. You can probably view the film multiple times and still observe some previously unnoticed and beautiful nuance.