FANTASTIC MR. FOX directed by Wes Anderson (USA, 2009)

Wes Anderson (illustration by Jame Taylor)

With Wes Anderson’s new movie Moonrise Kingdom getting a lot of publicity at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, I was alerted to the fact that I had missed his Foxy predecessor.

It’s quite a strange film because, while it  looks like a kids movie, it probably holds more appeal for an adult, arty audience.

It was shot using the painstaking and time-consuming stop-motion animation of clay figures. This gives it a quirky though fairly wooden  look which seems crude and amateurish by the side of  the visual splendour and technical perfection of movies like Toy Story and Shrek.

Roald Dahl’s witty tale of good versus evil with animals outsmarting humans is treated respectfully although the story is opened up substantially with a new beginning and end.

Despite the fact that it was  made in Britain, the animal heroes are all voiced by Americans (with George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr & Mrs Fox) and the only English accents are for the human villains and a curious cameo by Jarvis Cocker as a second-rate folk singer.

It’s skilfully done but the semi-Americanization of this very English story just feels wrong.

Dahl was mostly unimpressed by adaptations of his stories and judged the original 1971 musical Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory “a crummy film” . Were he still alive I suspect he’d have given much the same verdict for Wes Anderson’s treatment.

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