When: Friday, 1 January - Monday, 1 March
Where: Various Cincmas
How much: $15.00
A sly father figure with a good-humoured but nevertheless illegal penchant for the ways of the underground; a maternal force who reluctantly accepts her partner's shortcomings in light of his somewhat mystical charm; children with dry, almost adult senses of reasoning; Bill Murray and a soundtrack appropriated from the jukebox of a 60's milkbar. In other words, a Wes Anderson film. That's not to say Fantastic Mr. Fox is just another in a line of films about the balance of male adolescence and adult responsibilities (okay, perhaps it is), but in this stop-motion animated instance, these hallmarks are welcomed with open paws.
Taking a slim, and much loved Roald Dahl novel, Anderson has elongated the story of the Fantastic Mr. Fox with fellow screenwriter and director Noah Baumbach (whom he last paired with for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). Instead of adding an unnecessary wash of trite storytelling, Anderson keeps this tale short, and it is all the more magical because of it.
Mr. Fox, voiced by George Clooney, aches for a life above ground, moving Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) and son (Jason Schwartzman) from their secure hole to a hollowed out tree with all the trimmings. Not yet content, the disenchanted patriarch falls back on his old thieving ways, irritated by the three industries that thwart his view. These are operated by Boggis, Bunce and Bean, three humans who aren't prepared to be shown up by a forest critter.
This suitably slight narrative enables the story to focus on the familial tidbits and the emotional shortcomings-and-goings of the family of three and its not quite merry band of ring-ins. Jason Schwartzman's fox Ash so stubbornly yearns to be respected as an athlete in the footsteps of his father, and he resents the arrival of his seemingly perfect cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) who comes to live with them when his own father falls ill, "he's got one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel".
The ensemble cast also features Bill Murray's frustrated lawyer Badger; Willem Dafoe's drunk, streetfighting Rat; Jarvis Cocker, and a slightly batty but loyal opposum Kylie who cries wolf and suffers from what can only be described as "crazy eye".
Ever a stickler for crafty, aesthetic fussiness, Anderson's handmade production design of the film is heartwarming rather than austere. The fur, the cotton buds, the miniature clothing, are all out of sync with populist modern animation which is such a treat to see (no 3D glasses necessary). Particularly nice are the cutaway scenes, giving a view of the animals working their way through underground tunnels, reminiscent of the brilliant boat model in Life Aquatic.
The village in which it is set, with its tiny signs for co-op laundries and fish and chip shops, is a neat summation of the feel of the film - small and familiar, not epic. Though the animals may just be wild, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a neatly contained film of family and friendship. And there's something kind of fantastic about that, isn't there?
By Kate Jinx