A glance at the cast is evidence alone of the quirky antics that lie ahead in Wes Anderson’s ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ - it's not every day you see Clooney, Streep, Murray, Wilson, Dafoe and Schwartzman in the same line-up.
Tipping his hat to stop-motion classics of yore, ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ and ‘Rushmore’ writer/director ‘Morphs' the style and appeal of ‘Bagpuss’ and co with his own unique storytelling talent.
The original opening brings us face to face with the eponymous fox (Clooney) and his foxy Mrs (Streep) as they prepare for an evening of adventure - a takeaway dinner. However, Mr Fox’s curiosity lands them both in hot water; she blurts out that she’s pregnant and he makes a grown-up promise to go straight - a promise he’ll struggle to keep.
Fast forward a number of fox years to their busy lair, where Mr Fox now cares for his family by working a steady day job while yearning for his dangerous Chicken Lickin' career. It's a world, much like our own and certainly all of Roald Dahl's, where actions speak louder than words.
The playful plot, with a strong focus on family values, is embellished by rich characters who, unlike most animations, are voiced by actors who recorded their roles together on location, as opposed to alone in a sound booth. This authenticity pays off great dividends in the tone and delivery of the characters, who interact in a natural, convincing way.
Audiences familiar and accustomed to CGI blockbuster animations may not immediately bond with the stop-motion on offer. However, the tone, characters, plot and wit in the opening scene quickly dispel any fears about the quality of this family film. Plus the drama is accompanied by a cracking soundtrack, which includes specially written material from Cocker, as well as tunes from The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones.
Delivering messages to both children and adults alike, Anderson shows the appeal, advantages and struggles of youth plus the responsibilities of adults who still yearn for the adventure, or misadventure, of their carefree days. In his uniquely colourful way, Anderson brings life and meaning to his animal world in what is a very engaging, enjoyable film. Whether in celluloid or stop-motion form, he never fails to grip audiences with achingly honest portrayals of our animal nature.