Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Eric Anderson, Brian Cox, Hugo Guinness, Michael Gambon
"Who am I, Kylie? Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialist, you know...?" The kids certainly don't. We all remember Mr Fox from our childhood days, that chicken-stealing ground-digging rascally Roald Dahl rogue. But as Wes Anderson's stop-motion starts up, you quickly realise that this is not the Mr Fox you read about as a child. This is Wes Anderson's Mr Fox. And he's got style.
Mr Fox (Clooney), retired barnyard thief and newspaper columnist, is sick of living in a hole. And so he decides, he tells his wife (Streep), to do something about it. Uprooting the Fox clan to a new tree home, he puts them right next to door to Boggis (Cox), Bunce (Guinness) and Bean (Gambon) - three of the meanest, nastiest, ugliest farmers in the valley, warns his friend, Badger (Murray). Naturally, with fresh food on the doorstep, he can't resist the urge to do one last job. Which does no favours for his faltering relationship with his fledgling son, Ash (Schwartzman).
It's a different set-up to the one we're used to. There are moments that are the same, but they come with a whole load of backstory - no surprises given the limited runtime of Roald's original romp. Loading the burrow with familiar dysfunction, Anderson's script (co-written with Noah Baumbach) is typically wry, with its offbeat bundle of neuroses flying around the place, and full of his idiosyncratic ironies. Happily mixing an American cast with an oddly English countryside, Wes's world is wonderfully unique, rediscovering a lightness of touch that slightly disappeared on The Darjeeling Ltd.
The result is a family film that genuinely appeals to all ages. The kids will dig the colourful visuals, painstakingly created puppets, and wacky tone. Adults will enjoy the witty dialogue, which is perfectly content to whistle over children's heads whenever necessary. But for the most part, it's accessible all-round, with characters that are endearing, awkward and often funny. Including the odd Mexican shootout, the action bounds along, jumping between heist scenarios constructed with a clever sense of humour ("I didn't have a bandit mask, but I modified this tube sock." "We look cool." "Yeah, we do.")
Oozing with off-the-wall style, Anderson's soundtrack swings from sinister sing-song to the Beach Boys with a confident swagger. Even a random turn by Jarvis Cocker fits in somehow. Of course, this isn't really Roald Dahl's book anymore - this is just a Wes Anderson film. With foxes. But that's no bad thing; he's sticking in the groove he knows best, and it's seriously catchy stuff. An old-school 2-D oddball, it's completely bonkers and absolutely adorable. Combining his cast's charisma with a fondness for his furry tale, Fantastic Mr Fox is a charming vulpes vulpes that everyone will love.