Lack of slickness makes for a fantastic Mr Fox
PUBLISHED: 16:38 05 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:31 07 September 2010
Fantastic Mr Fox (PG) Director Wes Anderson Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Wally Wolodarsky and Michael Gambon 88mins Four star rating By shunning CGI trickery and opting for basic stop motion animat
Fantastic Mr Fox (PG) Director Wes Anderson Featuring the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Wally Wolodarsky and Michael Gambon
Four star rating
By shunning CGI trickery and opting for basic stop motion animation, director Wes Anderson creates a charming version of Roald Dahl's classic tale and allows him to add his own 21st century magic
I never really cared for the work of Wes (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) Anderson, but as the Scorsese of Twee always stuck to documenting his clique of poor little rich Americans, there was no cause to take umbrage.
Now, however, he has reached out to interfere with my childhood, adapting a Roald Dahl tale in the stop motion animation style similar to that of Bagpuss or Camberwick Green.
And what's more, to fill in the gaps of Dahl's brief, picture-filled, text he has the characters speak in the same kind of deadpan, laidback contemporary style of all his other films.
The result is something .... almost inexplicably marvellous. (But I guess the star rating already gave that twist away.)
Mr Fox is a reformed character, but when his family move into a new treehouse overlooking the three enormous farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean, he can't resist going back to his old chicken-stealing ways.
Boggis (the meanest of the farmers who bears an uncanny resemblance to Norman Tebbit), Bunce and Bean are intent on catching this pesky poacher and their angry response threatens the lives of all the local animals.
The film has a lot of fun with the convention in cartoons of having animals behave like humans.
The animals here are absurdly humanised. But every once in a while they revert back to their animal ways. (Mr Fox has a breakfast of pancakes served up for him in his dainty dining room, and then shovels it down in a few seconds.) It's almost as if all these talking animals are just putting on airs.
And Clooney makes a marvellous Mr Fox. It's much more than a voiceover. Like Tom Hanks as Woody in Toy Story or Jack Black in Kung Fu Panda, it feels like a complete performance.
The kids seemed to enjoy it - but it's adults who are the most likely to fall in love with it.
The key to its charm is the rather basic, but wholly magical, stop motion animation.
The slightest hint of CGI slickness and it would probably have been unbearably glib.
But the respect for traditional virtues allows the audience to accept the updating.
It's a unique achievement and rather inspiring to witness two such seemingly different artists as Dahl and Anderson managing to come to an accommodation.