A not so fantastic “Mr. Fox”
Fans of animated movies have become more sophisticated. So while the ‘stop-motion” technology of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is rich in detail and impressive, it lacks material that will entertain children or in any way intellectually stimulate adults. Had this movie been released in the pre-Pixar era, its creative animation and the story based on Roald Dahl’s book might have been enough.
But this adaptation, directed by Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Rushmore”), is awkwardly edited, too talky, and contains little accessible wit. This is not a surprise considering Anderson’s penchant for the pretentiousness and dysfunction that pervade his movies. Throw in some scriptwriting help by Noah Baumbach (the incredibly morose “Margot at The Wedding”) and one wonders how this “Fox” would have any chance at mainstream appeal.
The basic plot follows the misadventures of Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney), who tries to save his family from the wrath of a trio of farmers. All the animals have humanistic qualities, and in addition to Clooney as the sly but charming titular character, a host of excellent voices lend their downbeat interpretations to the proceedings including Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray. The humor here is self-aware and droll, and provokes only the occasionally mild chuckle. It doesn’t help that the story is filled with sequences that feel like set-ups and ideas-house hunting, farm looting, interspecies relationships-but with little engaging action.
Parents will be thankful that there is little of the bathroom humor or noxious violence common in kiddie fare, but it’s hard to imagine even the most patient child not being bored stiff here.
As classics such as the similarly filmed “Chicken Run,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and the “Wallace and Gromitt” series have proven, as much painstaking care should go into the script as the stop-motion technology itself.
And there’s nothing that says stories adapted from books primarily aimed at children can’t maintain their innocence while operating on certain adult levels. At about 90 minutes, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is about 70 minutes too long and not fun enough for kids of any age.
Rated PG for action, smoking and slang humor.