Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

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I’ve got a lot of love for Roald Dahl, even if he was a bit of an unpleasant cuss. He taught me how to read, after all. When I was around four or five years old I was taken to Temple Street children’s hospital for one of my periodic lung re-inflations (I had asthma and smog in Dublin in the eighties was so thick you could chip your teeth on it). While waiting to be seen I picked up a copy of The Magic Finger, which I remember being the first book I ever read through from beginning to end. Dahl was huge when I was growing up. He was our JK Rowling. That probably says something about us, but then again, I think it’s often overstated just how violent and horrifying his stories were. I mean, sure, they were violent and horrifying, but it was all a matter of tone. Roald Dahl was like Rebecca Black, he sounded a lot worse than he actually was. A plot description The BFG or The Witches is arguably more horrific than the books themselves. Roald Dahl took horror and made it so ridiculous and luridly over the top that you couldn’t help but laugh at it. In doing so, he made our terrors ridiculous. I think that’s why so many children loved his work, even nervous kids like me. Roald Dahl didn’t make us feel scared. He made us feel brave.

The trouble with adapting Roald Dahl for screen is that, by necessity, you lose the author’s voice and that tone I talked about often goes out the window. That’s how you get something like the 1989 BFG film which, while certainly not bad, is just cussing terrifying. There have been just under a dozen films based on Dahl’s work (not counting his own screenplays like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) and they range in quality from “terrible” to “one of the greatest movie musicals of all time”.
Chocolate

With the same story at both poles, oddly enough.

Today’s movie, Fantastic Mr Fox, is based on Dahl’s 1970 novella of the same name. It’s probably fair to call the book “minor Dahl”, it’s certainly not as well known or beloved as Matilda, BFG or The Witches but I really loved it as a child. It’s a simple enough story, Mr Fox steals poultry from three horrible farmers, said farmers roll up with some serious firepower and blast Mr Fox’s tail off but he gets the last laugh in the end by tunnelling into their farms and stealing all their cuss and throwing a big cuss-off party. Whatever, I really liked it. But as you can probably tell it’s a fairly slight story which honestly is perfect for adaptation. You see, the best Dahl movies are those where someone with their own distinctive voice comes and builds a story around Dahl’s basic framework. And there are few voices in Hollywood as distinctive as Wes Anderson, who’s work is so distinctive that Slate created a Wes Anderson bingo card.
Would you like to play a game?

Would you like to play a game?

 So our movie begins with an overhead shot and some yellow titles before cutting to Mr. Fox (George Clooney) wearing a tan jacket.

Bingo 1

.waiting under a tree at sunset for his girlfriend Felicity, (Meryl Streep) and yeah, this is a classy cast. Cuss, the tree is probably played by Jack Nicholson in an uncredited cameo. The animation here is fantastic, if it’s not quite on the level of Coraline  it’s still damn impressive. I should also point out that, despite Wes Anderson being credited as director, the animation (y’know, the actual film) was directed by Mark Gustafson with Anderson directing the vocal performances. Mr Fox is listening to The Ballad of Davy Crockett on his Walkman from the old Disney mini-series (yes, yes, I’ll probably review it sometime between now and when I am taken by the cold hand of death). And because this is a Wes Anderson film (hey, it may have been directed by Mark Gustafson but it is most definitely a Wes Anderson film) that means something. Everything in this movie means something. Do I know what it all means? Cuss, no. But I can take a stab at this, at least. See, despite the PG rating and the animals and the animation and the child-friendly lack of cussing, this is not a movie for children. It is very firmly rooted in adult fears and worries, specifically losing the vibrancy and independence of your youth (being “a wild animal”) and settling down into the respectably, ho-hum routine of family life. Right now, Mr. Fox is “the king of the wild frontier”, free of worries and responsibilities. The two foxes raid a squab farm and get caught in a fox trap. Felicity tells Fox that she’s pregnant and that if they get out of this alive he’s got to get a new job, preferably one where being torn apart by dogs isn’t called “the retirement plan”. Fox grudgingly agrees. So. Two years later, which is twelve fox years, which is, lemme see…forty mouse years (wow, big time skip) Fox and Felicity are now married and have a son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman).

Bingo 1

So, Fox has now settled down, given up his dreams of a career as a poultry thief and is now slogging away in the thankless, mundane role of…are YOU CUSSING KIDDING ME!?

Journalist

Wow. That poor guy. Having to give up on his hopes and dreams to become a respected print journalist and earn a living through his writing. Seriously, do you have any idea how depressing it is when someone else’s career which they reluctantly settled for is one that you would almost literally kill to have? My heart bleeds for you, Foxy. Pure, distilled, envy. Like many middle-class people trying to fill the gaping hole in their lives, Fox decides that buying a bigger property is the answer and tells Felicity that he wants to buy a home above ground. He explains that he’s already 1400 mouse years old and that his father died at 1500 and that he doesn’t want to live in a hole anymore. He takes a look at a magnificent beech tree house where he meets Kylie (Wally Woodarsky) the superintendent. Kylie is an opossum, because apparently someone didn’t get the memo that this movie is set in England and that opossums are native to North America.

AND MY CUSSING NIGHTMARES.

AND MY CUSSING NIGHTMARES.

 When Fox sees that the tree overlooks three farms arranged symmetrically, he impulsively decides to buy and goes to his lawyer, Badger, voiced by Bill Murray.

Bingo 1

 Badger patiently explains to Fox that he’s buying way out of his price range and in a neighbourhood where they don’t take kindly to foxes. He explains that the three farmers who would be his neighbours are Boggis, Bunce and Bean, one short, one fat, one lean and that these horrible crooks so different in looks are nonetheless equally mean. Actually that’s not exactly true. Bean, voiced by Michael Gambon, is quite clearly the nastiest of the three. Okay, want to hear something really cool? Alright, Roald Dahl was good friends with Ian Fleming who he met when they were both in the Irregulars, a British spy outfit who’s job was basically to get America into the war by…drinking vast quantities of alcohol and seducing beautiful American heiresses.

"God. War is hell."

“God. War is hell.”

And I know what you’re thinking. And you’re right, in all probability Roald Dahl was one of the real-life influences on James Bond. Which makes it absolutely awesome that Bean is introduced in this movie not only looking very like Roald Dahl but holding a gun in a rather familiar pose.

Bean

My head canon is now that Connery’s James Bond retired, passed the mantle to Roger Moore and moved to the English countryside under a new name to farm turkeys and brew cider. Nothing you can say can dissuade me. Badger goes on to say that Bean is “skinny as a pencil, smart as a whip, and possibly the scariest man currently living.”

True at the time.

True at the time.

But Fox cannot be swayed and tells Badger to buy the tree anyway. So the Fox family move in and everything seems swell but Fox is clearly up to something, as he can be seen watching the nearby farms through a pair of binoculars.

"Boggis! You magnificent bastard I READ YOUR BOOK!"

“Boggis! You magnificent bastard I READ YOUR BOOK!”

Oh and I almost forgot. Through the binoculars he sees his nephew Kristofferson, a precocious child voiced by Eric Chase Anderson whose being sent to live with the Fox family beacause his father is sick and in hospital.

Okay, okay. Slow down. So weve got Precocious Child, Binoculars, Absent Parent and...okay, vocing acting is an artform so Im cl

Okay, okay. Slow down. So we’ve got Precocious Child, Binoculars, Absent Parent and…okay, voice acting is an artform so I’m claiming Eric Anderson Artwork too.

Ash pretty soon starts to resent Kristofferson because he’s taller, and more attractive and naturally co-ordinated and generally just less of a total load to be around. Ash also starts to worry that his father prefers Kristofferson to him.

Okay, technically not "siblings" but cmon, are we gonna split hairs here?

Okay, technically not “siblings” but cmon, are we gonna split hairs here?

 Fox secretly ropes Kylie into helping him pull of One Last Heist, explaining that they’ll deal with the beagles that Boggis has guarding his chicken farm by feeding them drugged blueberries. He explains that beagles love blueberries which isn’t actually true but is a nice little callback to the whole “feeding pheasants raisins dosed with sleeping powder” trick from Danny the Champion of the World. Meanwhile, Kristofferson is making a big impression in Ash’s school where he joins the local Whack Bat team and runs a perfect niner split, whack batting the burning pine cone over the basket and creaming the cedar stick off the cross rock before the twig runners even know what’s happening and running up the scoredowns before the umpire yells “hot box!”. This is all explained over some plunking harpischord music by the team coach, voiced by Owen Wilson.

Bingo 1

I gotta say, this whole scene is baffling to me. I mean, who the hell doesn’t understand  the rules of Whack Bat?

And everyone is happy. Because they have won Whack Bat today.

And everyone is happy. Because they have won Whack Bat today.

Realising that Kristofferson’s natural ability could be an asset, Fox decides to take him along when he goes to steal Bean’s cider. This ensures that he joins the ranks of characters who I love but who nonetheless are probably crazy and should not be allowed near children at all costs.

Truly august company.

Truly, august company.

In Bean’s cider cellar they run into Rat, brilliantly played with a menacing drawl by Willem Dafoe

Rat

Rat is a great villain, not just because he’s a creepy ass giant rat with a switch blade, killer martial arts skills and a seriously menacing voice performance. He’s great because he’s a foil for Fox  on both the physical and the psychological level. One of the first thing’s Rat says to Fox is to mention how Felicity was the “town tart in her day”. Fox, to his credit, brushes this off saying “She lived. We all did. Let’s not use a double standard” before kicking Rat’s ass (admittedly with a little help from Kristofferson). But before they can am-scray with the cider, Bean’s wife comes down to the cellar.

Oh Honey. The years have not been kind.

Oh Honey. The years have not been kind.

Fortunately, all those years of peering in the murky ocean floor for seashells have left her with very poor eyesight so Fox, Kylie and Kristofferson are able to escape with enough booze to give Oliver Reed liver failure. They arrive back at the tree to find Felicity waiting for them in the darkened kitchen (never a good sign) and Meryl Streep delivers possibly my favourite line of the movie: “If what I think is happening, is happening? It better not be.”

Too late unfortunately, as Boggis, Bunce and Bean are lying in wait outside the tree in a bush and as soon as Fox appears they blast his tail off.

"Such a...sorry tail."

“Such a…sorry tail.”

As Felicity tends his wound Ash asks if it’ll grow back and Kylie explains to him that no, severed fox limbs do not grow back (that’s wolverines). Suddenly the farmers attack with bulldozers, forcing the entire family to dig deeper and deeper underground (there’s too much panic in this town).

Remember that song? By Jamiroquai? It was on the Godzilla 1998 soundtrack

"Freeze! Music police!"

“Freeze! Music police!”

"You'll never take me alive coppah!"

“You’ll never take me alive coppah!”

Bean takes the tail and starts wearing it as a tie while his men lay siege to the Fox family’s hole while they sit around in their pyjamas and wonder what they’re going to do next.

Bingo 1

Felicity takes Fox aside and tears him a new one, asking him what the ever living CUSS he thinks he’s doing bringing all this cuss down on his family. She demands to know why he broke his promise to her and Fox simply says “Because I’m a wild animal.”

Felicity answers “You’re also a husband. And a father. This story is too predictable. In the end, we all die. Unless you change.”

Felicity’s not the only one who’s pissed at him either. While tunnelling they run into Badger and a whole load of other forest creatures who’ve had to dig to escape the farmers. Badger tells him that their families are trapped at the bottom of a flint mine with no food, no water and no wi-fi, so Fox comes up with a brilliant plan. They dig their way under the three farms and help themselves to a banquet’s worth of chickens, geese, turkey’s and cider. This scene is scored to the wonderful “Petey’s Song”, sung by Jarvis C0cker.

What makes Bean’s furious “You wrote a bad song Petey!” even more hilarious is that he’s being totally sincere. Bean is perfectly civil to Petey in every other scene. He’s not saying that to be a dick, he’s just genuinely appalled by his poor musicianship.

With the banquet underway, Ash approaches Kristofferson and asks for his help. Ash plans to raid Bean’s farmhouse and take back Fox’s tail. They tunnel into Bean’s kitchen and almost get the tail but Honey Rider finds them and captures Kristofferson.

Meanwhile, just as Fox is about to give a triumphant toast, the tunnel is flooded with cider and the animals are washed into the sewer system. While doing a headcount Fox realises that Kristofferson and Ash are missing, and Ash appears and tells him that Kristofferson has been captured.

Rat then shows up and delivers a ransom note from Bean to Fox, saying that unless he surrenders they’ll kill his “son”. Ash says “He’s not his son” and Rat tries to kidnap him but ends up getting electrocuted. As he dies, Rat tells them where Kristofferson is and says that he sold out to the (hu)Man because he was addicted to cider. They give him a last mouthful of cider and he dies.

Fox now rallies the animals by reminding them that they’re not just lawyers, accountants and so on but wild animals with skills and talents and cool Latin names that mean something about their DNA.

"Mole! Talpa Europa!" “I can see in the dark! "That's fantastic! We can use that!"

“Mole! Talpa Europa!”
“I can see in the dark!
“That’s fantastic! We can use that!”

"Rabbit! Oryctolagus Cuniculus!" "I'm fast!" "You bet you are!"

“Rabbit! Oryctolagus Cuniculus!”
“I’m fast!”
“You bet you are!”

"Mouse! Mus Muscules!"

“Mouse! Mus Muscules!”

“I write snarky reviews of animated movies!”

“I write snarky reviews of animated movies!”

“Useless. Utterly useless. That has no application to our current situation whatsoever.”

“Useless. Utterly useless. That has no application to our current situation whatsoever.”

They plan a mission to rescue Kristofferson and before they go Fox takes his son aside and tells him how his parents escaped from that fox trap all those fox-years ago. They dug their way out. Fox says: “The whole time I was putting paw over paw with your mother digging beside me, and I thought to myself: I wonder who this little boy or girl is gonna be? Ash, I’m so glad he was you.”

Onions. Shut up.

Onions. Shut up.

Using the animal skills they’ve been repressing all this time, the critters are able to take the farmers by surprise and Fox uses the ancient fox ability to…steal a motorbike…to get into Bean’s farm. They rescue Kristofferson and Fox, Kylie, Kristofferson and Ash ride out of the farm on a ramp like Evel Keneival.

And then we get…one of my favourite scenes in any movie.

All through the movie Fox has been phobic of wolves, even starting at the very mention of the word. But as they speed away from Bean’s farm on an empty, endless road they see a wolf far in the distance, watching them from a hilltop. Jet black. Expressionless. Feral.

Fox calls out to the wolf and tells him his name.

No reply.

He asks the wolf if they are in for a harsh winter.

No reply.

Fox raises a fist in silent salute. The wolf returns the gesture. Fox is moved to tears, and tells his family to wish the wolf well on his journey.

What does it all mean? Cuss if I know. Maybe the wolf is  Fox’s own wildness that he’s finally reclaimed. Maybe the returned salute is a reassurance. Yes. You are still a wild animal. Or maybe it’s the opposite. Maybe Fox has realised that he can’t be a wild animal anymore and that he must accept being a father, a husband. That he must accept getting older. That he must, at last, accept death. Maybe Fox’s salute to the black wolf is his way of saying to his own mortality “It’s okay. I’m not afraid of you anymore.”

wolf

Or maybe Wes Anderson is being weird for the sake of weird, there’s a first time for everything.

The movie ends, on a bittersweet note. The animals have won but their forest has been destroyed and they now live a mundane suburban existence in the sewer. Fox leads his family through a sewer pipe that opens out into a supermarket (aaaaaaaand I am never shopping there) and he shows them that they will never go hungry. Felicity tells Fox that she’s pregnant again and Fox gives one last speech:

“They say all foxes are slightly allergic to linoleum, but it’s cool to the paw – try it. They say my tail needs to be dry cleaned twice a month, but now it’s fully detachable – see? They say our tree may never grow back, but one day, something will. Yes, these crackles are made of synthetic goose and these giblets come from artificial squab and even these apples look fake – but at least they’ve got stars on them. I guess my point is, we’ll eat tonight, and we’ll eat together. And even in this not particularly flattering light, you are without a doubt the five and a half most wonderful wild animals I’ve ever met in my life. So let’s raise our boxes – to our survival.”

The phrase “I don’t want to survive, I want to live.” has been used in everything from Wall-E to 12 Years a Slave. At the end of this movie, Fox decides that “surviving” with those he loves is better than “living” without them. It’s a choice that many of us face in our lives. Do we “live”, doing what we’re passionate about and find fulfilling, even though it’ll probably never provide us with a stable income or decent living standard? Or do we survive, taking a job we don’t like and don’t really care about to support those we love? Or do we take the third option, survive by day while by night we metaphorically sneak into the chicken coop, scribbling or painting or singing in the shadows and hoping against hope that one day we’ll be able to do what we love and won’t have to make a choice between “living” and “surviving”? How does that work out?

Happy sad

I’ll let you know guys. I’ll let you know.

 

***
Scoring
Animation 18/20
Alright, sometimes the animal characters can look a little like road-kill brought to life by sinister and diabolic means but once you get past that this is a gorgeously animated film.
Leads 18/20
Well, he’s not called “Slightly above-average Mr. Fox” now is he?
Villains 18/20
I’m including Rat and Bean for a combined score.
Supporting Characters 18/20
You had me at “Bill Murray as a talking badger lawyer.”
Music: 18/20
It’s a Wes Anderson film and the music choices are, as usual, inspired, mixing original songs, plunky harpsichord music, rock classics, some lovely choral pieces and sixties Britpop.
final bingo

Awww…so close.

FINAL SCORE: 90%
NEXT UPDATE: 12 November 2015
NEXT TIME: November is Don Bluth month on Unshaved Mouse and we start with a movie that does to historical accuracy what Felix Yusopov did to Rasputin.
Anastasia-Movie-Poster-Hiddem-Gem

Neil Sharpson aka the Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, comic book writer and blogger based in Dublin. The blog updates with a new review every second Thursday. A new chapter from his novel, The Devil’s Heir, posts every Saturday. Today’s review was made possible thanks to the kind donation of Jacob Charlet. Thanks Jacob! Original artwork for this blog was commissioned from the oh-so talented Julie Android who you should definitely check out.  

80 comments

  1. The first time I saw this movie around the time it was new, I didn’t enjoy it very much. But in honor of your review I decided to give it another chance, and found myself liking it a lot more. Out of all the Wes Anderson movies I’ve seen, this is my favorite. But right now that’s a short list. The Grand Budapest Hotel was good, but I hated Moonrise Kingdom.

    Speaking of which, Wes Anderson is actually working on another animated movie right now. All that is known right now is that it will star a few cool dudes like Bryan Cranston (inb4 Breaking Bad jokes) as dogs, and it will be “Japanese-inspired.” After rewatching Fantastic Mr. Fox, I’m very optimistic.

      1. “You see Zero, there are still faint glimmers of civilization in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity. In fact that is what we provide in our humble… Insignificant… Oh fuck it.”

  2. Roald Dahl, as a writer, is like the best kind of uncle – one who was your mum’s favourite sibling when she was growing up, who used to make up naughty songs and hang yo-yos on the fingers of statues of politicians. In the world of children’s literature, he’s the one who sneaks you lollies when your parents aren’t looking, cracks dirty jokes at Christmas, tells seriously wicked yarns about his travels, is surprisingly nice to your pets, and makes you question structures of power you always took for granted. (Who can forget lines like, ‘The maiden smiles, one eyelid flickers – she whips a pistol from her knickers’?)

    Yeah, the puppets do look slightly like roadkill, but the whole movie has a charming op-shop/grandma’s mantelpiece look that makes it work. The supermarket ending is actually a lovely homage to the original ending of the novella, in which Fox raids an innocent grocery. Making it owned by the farmers was a clever touch.

    (Also, I actually love the 2005 Chocolate Factory adaptation, and I’m a bit mystified by people who like the other one. Even though the 2005 movie undoubtedly has that Burton flavour, it feels more true to the book, it’s better cast, better acted, better shot, better paced, better looking, and has a more complete story arc. As a kid I was really disappointed in the 1971 adaptation. It’s just so… lame. The kids can’t act, the jokes are weak, the design of the whole project is just really ugly, the ending leaves several loose ends, they changed a bunch of things about the original story for no apparent reason and Wilder is really unappealing. The 2005 version is creepy and whimsical, like a Dahl story should be. It makes you want to investigate every weird, wonderful corner of the factory and even the world outside (the Indian chocolate palace or Japanese sweetshop, for example). The 1971 version is creepy like a house with too many gnomes on the lawn that permanently smells of soup and mildew, and Dahl didn’t like it either.)

      1. I like the 2005 version, as I believe it was closer to the book, and while I think Dahl may have approved of it more (had he lived to see it), I prefer the 1971 version more, just because it seems to stick with me more often.

      2. You, sir, have made a mistake. Now who will bring viewers coming back to your blog with intriguing descriptions of Australian wildlife?!

        I mean, I could try, but we don’t get much by way of cool marsupials except not-misplaced-wildlife opossums.

      1. I’m sure he would. I read that he was completely hands-off on the 1971 film and HATED IT when it came out, claiming it went against his vision. The 2005 film was certainly a lot closer to the book, but I have a much easier time reading the book then watching the movie.

      2. My favourite quote about that particular debacle was that Dahl considered Wilder’s Wonka was ‘insufficiently gay and bouncy’, which makes me wonder if he would like the Burton adaptation after all… but apparently his family were very pleased with it.

      3. Curiously enough, their critic scores on Rotten Tomatoes are pretty close – 89% for ’71 and 83% for ’05, although the audience scores are wildly different.

        It does really grind my gears when the ’05 version is called a ‘remake’, though.

      4. Rotten Tomatoes scores are set around the time the movie came out, long before the critical consensus has settled. That’s why the Phantom Menace is certified Fresh.

      5. I did not know that! I’d like to see it. The Matilda musical just arrived down here and it’s scored by my favourite Australian musical comedian (it’s a surprisingly competitive category) so I’m curious to see how Dahl’s style translates to musical theatre.

      6. The thing about the book, I believe, is that it’s not really about Charlie *or* Wonka. The real star is the chocolate factory, and just how many kooky, creepy eccentricities and inventions Dahl could think up and stuff in there. This works wonders with holding a little kid’s attention, but most movie audiences understandably want the story to be about the characters, not the setting.

        Hence, both adaptations had to come up with a character arc out of thin air. The ’71 movie gave it to Charlie. The ’05 movie gave it to Wonka. I doubt Dahl would’ve been terribly pleased in either case.

      7. I was going to pipe down, having caused enough trouble in this thread already – but damn, RL, you have a good point.

    1. I think this would be a great opportunity to plug one of the new TGWTG producers, as he used his really clever series on both film versions, and without any real bias towards either one, just their varied levels of faithfulness and/or creative judgement done to the source material.

      Personally though, I would have to my money to the ’71 version. Same as the detractors of Wes Anderson, the most common criticisms of Tim Burton generally have issues with his tired and easily recognized quirks and tropes; I’ve never reached that point, but it makes it very easy to pull me out of his undoubtedly beautiful world-building abilities. I recall actually seeing the ’05 version as a child, and the scene where Wonka trails off when meeting his winning contestants, suddenly muttering about his “Poppa”, might be the first time a movie ever made me cringe.

      1. Ah, now, I’ve seen this kind of argument before – most fans of the ’71 version set it up as a ‘Wilder vs Depp’ thing, and not the movies as a whole. Neither of them are as good as Book-Wonka, although I can understand why all three of them were written the way they were. For me, a far more cringeworthy moment is the office scene in the earlier adaptation. Up until then, Wilder’s Wonka had been more or less a nice character, if a little kooky, but that scene is just plain horrible – worse than the boat scene for me. I felt quite betrayed by that scene as a kid, and wasn’t able to trust him afterwards. I can see why a lot of people would be annoyed by Depp’s Wonka, although I don’t mind him – but maybe that’s just because he makes my mum laugh.

      2. Well the central performance is a pretty major component in the film but I would also argue that the songs and supporting performances are blow 05 out of the water too. But I think the scene in the office is often misinterpreted. Wonka isn’t “testing” Charlie, he really has lost. And why? BECAUSE HE STOLE FIZZY LIFTING DRINKS!!!! And Wonka is so angry because Charlie has broken his goddamned heart, because he was rooting for him so hard, because he was so sure that he’d found SOMEBODY good. Someone in the whole tv watching, spoiled, gluttonous, gum chewing awful world with a good heart who he could trust with his factory and the Oompah Loompas. And even Charlie let him down. But when Charlie, someone living in dire poverty, gives him back the everlasting gobstopper that could make him a millionaire because it is the right thing to do. And so shines a good deed in a weary world.

      3. For me, the office scene is the best moment in the movie. It’s such a heartbreaking moment for Charlie, he came so far and had his dream taken away from him. But even in that moment, he does the honest thing, and is rewarded greatly for it. That scene elevates the movie to another level for me.

      4. Songs, I’ll give you. Grudgingly, because Oompa Loompa Doompa-Dee-Do was a pretty poor replacement for the poems from the book, and I like the Elfman score.
        Supporting performances? Yeah, nah.
        I’m as guilty of nostalgia as anyone. In my case, my first (pissed off) impressions of ’71 are probably always going to cloud my perception of it. Personally, I’ve never felt like Dahl’s stories are really about being charming. ‘Charming’ is all too often a euphemism for ‘daggy’ – or worse, ‘sleazy’. They’re supposed to be about weird, wicked fun – blowing up your grandma, throwing crocodiles into the sun, breaking into the Queen’s room at midnight to ask her for a swarm of helicopters. Along with the magic goes a message: the adults don’t really know what they’re doing and the world is full of ratbags who are absolutely going to try to trample you, but you, reader, you are smart and good enough to beat them.
        If it’s dorky to like the ’05 adaptation, then I don’t want to be cool.

      5. This banter gets me thinking… I have a modest proposal, which I reassure you has nothing to do with baby-eating.

        You two’ve got some pretty interesting points on these two movies, and your last dual reviews were quite the successes, so I’m thinking a dual duel movie review of both these adaptations, maybe weighing up each similar scene and making points for their merits. Alchemist-gets-eaten-by-a-shark moment optional, but knowing Australians, she’d probably just punch her way out.

        …Ok, maybe not so modest, but it came into my head and I felt the need to get it out there. What say the viewers?

      6. Oh, Senor, you delightful little creature/instrument.
        Firstly, I would absolutely be up for this, but Mouse has another requested film from me coming up in the next couple of months so perhaps we’d better rest on our laurels with that idea.

        Secondly, True Story Time with Alchemist: sometimes I think I exaggerate too much here or rely too much on national stereotypes. And then I remember the time when I was twelve, surfing with my Dad, the day after being stung by a jellyfish. An actual real shark, with teeth in its mouth and teeth on its skin, came up behind the board. My Dad kicked a storm of bubbles in its face and then jumped on the board behind me and we rode the wave to safety. I don’t know what species it was, but this all happened on North Stradbroke Island, not far from a place called Amity Point. Which is famous for a deadly shark attack.
        You’d think this incident would have stopped me going diving in the shark tank at the aquarium for my eighteenth birthday, but you see, I am a child of the Shark-Kicking Alchemist, and my father has taught me well.

      7. Well, if you’re happy for me to hijack the blog, I’m happy to play substitute reviewer for a fortnight. Considering what I put you through with Coraline, and the other thing coming up in March, you can pick whatever you like.

  3. Terror’s the LEAST I can do!

    I love how Rasputin has absolutely no problem being the bad guy. Let your evil shine, you crazy monk.

    …Oh, and thanks for the review. I never had any intention of seeing this movie, though.

      1. Mm. I’m sure the jackal puppies will forgive me.
        I suppose I should mention that I am, or was, a fan of Dahl. I read both Willy Wonka books (and good god but that second book is trippy), the BFG, the Witches, and Matilda, all when I was very young and impressionable. Explains a lot, really. But I never encountered the Fantastic Mr. Fox, so I’ve never really felt the impulse to see this adaptation. Actually, the only piece of his short fiction that stays with me is The Hitchhiker, mostly since even as a kid it seemed rather ludicrous. But hey.
        (Actually, I’ve never read James and the Giant Peach, either, but I’ve seen that movie. Those wacky rhinos… And for obvious reasons, I’ve read Danny, Champion of the World.)

      2. The medicine scene in Great Glass Elevator left me with the conviction that if you took medicine you didn’t need it would give you the thing it was meant to cure. This was because I didn’t know what laxatives were actually supposed to do!
        The Vermicious Knids I found pretty scary.
        And I am another one who prefers 1971 Chocolate Factory. 🙂

      3. I only remember one bit from “The Great Glass Elevator” and it was how Charlie’s grandmother got really super old and somehow got memories from centuries ago. Very odd.

        My second grade teacher read us “James and the Giant Peach”. The first time I ever laughed myself into tears was when she read the reactions of the New Yorkers when the peach arrived and all the bugs started crawling out. Those monster names were so damn funny to eight-year-old me that I stayed after school just to reread them until the joke wore off.

      1. Look I know the real life facts of Anastasia aren’t even remotely similar and the way they treat Rasputin is… ugh… but please go by your Pocahontas rule on this one. It’s a good movie. Not great. But good. (Personally I think the main problem with it is when they go to France the movie loses its heart.)

  4. Wait Mouse, you might have actually won the Bingo! That Motorbike can almost certainly count as “Amusement Vehicle”, and Anderson cameoed in the film as the Weasel Realtor!

  5. Man I loved that final speech in the film.

    “…even these apples look fake. But at least they’ve got stars on them.”

    Something about how random and out of left field that speech went but still coming around to a logical and beautiful conclusion just sticks with me to this day.

  6. Awesome review, Mouse! 😀 I really liked this movie when I saw it, I enjoyed how it feels, if it makes any sense. Anyways, always looking back to your next post as long as it isn’t a political one. Just kidding, you can post whatever you want, but I don’t even understand my own country’s politics, so I can only wish Ireland some luck. 😉

  7. Also, I have a t-shirt on order that has Ash with his sock bandit hat on and the words “CUSS YEAH!” printed on it, with the exclamation point printed to look like a fox tail.

  8. Lots to say about this one. To start, I love Roald Dahl. The BFG, The Twits, Danny the Champion of the World, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, George’s Marvelous Medicine, The Witches, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, and, of course, The Fantastic Mr. Fox were all books that I dearly loved when I was young (and honestly still do, though I haven’t read any of them in years). I think you hit the nail on the head about why children love Dahl’s stories even though they’re kind of terrifying and I’d also add that I think he very accurately captures the way that a lot of kids see the world, as a place where there can be magic around any corner. I enjoy most of the adaptations I’ve seen of his work. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is an all time classic of course, and Matilda is also very very good. Haven’t seen The BFG but lord those Giants ARE terrifying. I’ll need to check that out at some point. So, yeah, Roald Dahl, love him (even if he was a bit of an unpleasant cuss).

    As for this movie, I find it completely impossible to discuss any Wes Anderson film without discussing Anderson himself. And frankly, I can’t stand him. His films always come across as far too self-indulgent for my tastes. So my experience with his movies has ranged from complete abject LOATHING (Rushmore) to “that was a mildly pleasant diversion” (The Life Aquatic and Moonrise Kingdom). Fox is undoubtedly my favorite of the bunch, and the only one I would say I unequivocally enjoy. This is in large part due to how much I love the original story, but it’s in equally large part due to the animation. If all of Wes Anderson’s films were done like this, I’d probably love them a lot more. For some reason his style bothers me a lot less in animated form, I can’t quite explain why but it’s true. So this movie was a rather delightful watch, for both the animation and the vocal performances. Only thing that bothered me was the use of the phrase “cuss” in place of curse words. Just one of those little things Anderson does that really bugs me. But it’s a minor point. It’s an overall damn good film.

    Looking forward to the Anastasia review. I know it’s not a very good movie, but I have a definite nostalgic soft spot for it.

  9. Roald Dahl was my favorite author growing up. My mom couldn’t stand him; she hated the 1971 Wonka film, as well as The Witches. Fantastic Mr. Fox was my favorite Dahl book after Matilda, and I loved that it told such a simple brains vs. brawn story so memorably.

    This film was a hard sell for me. Weird animation, bizarre tone, and bolts so much onto the simple story of the book that they no longer bear much resemblance to each other. It took me a couple of watches, but I really grew to love it, and it’s probably my favorite Wes Anderson film (no mean feat, since it had to beat out Grand Budapest Hotel).

    This review is awesome and I agree with everything you said. Little surprised you didn’t have more to say about Ash, though. He’s (waggles fingers) “different” in a way that fans have interpreted as subtext for a few possible things, would have loved to hear your analysis.

    Then again, as you allude to a few times, this film kinda defies analysis. It means SOMETHING, but good luck determining what. The whole movie is (waggle waggle) “different”.

    1. Also, is the joke getting too old, or did you really miss out on the most obvious examples of Bahia eyes ever put to film? 😉

  10. IN THE DARK OF THE NIGHT!

    Oh I love anastasia. It’s so stupid and great 😀

    And I didn’t know fantastic Mr Fox was any good. I kind of avoided it when it first came out cos… I don’t know *shrugs*. I’ll definitely watch it now.

    Just curious but what’s your favourite Dahl film? And have you ever seen the Matilda musical? (if not I seriously recommend it. It’s brilliant. It’s only in London at the moment but hopefully soon it’ll go on tour)

  11. Mann I love pearl, so glad you’re a fan
    I saw this movie a long time ago, and I was very confused by the whole thing. I was pretty young though, I oughtta watch it again because I will probably get more out of it.

  12. Am I really weird since I’m more familiar with Asterix and the Moomins than with Roald Dahl, or can we just blame it on the fact that I’m Swedish? I had never heard about this story or this movie, so I don’t have much to say. But I long for your review on “Anastasia”.

  13. Ahh, Fantastic Mr. Fox. I remember when this came out. I also remember having the book read to me and enjoying it quite a bit as well. Dahl can be a fun guy for sure. Interesting theory on why he’s liked. I guess I can understand that. Dahl definitely could hit that magic dial to make horror induce a chuckle somehow. Which maybe is a bit age-dependant, I think a few grown ups might find it pretty frightening, even looking back. I seem to remember rediscovering Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and finding it maybe just a little bit harder to sleep afterwards than I remember after reading it when I was little. That Burton burn though, yeowch.

    I hope you get to Davy Crockett before you croak too, but that line made me picture a Shade reading that review and chuckling to himself in a “we’ll see about that” manner (just the Shade, they’ve got a guarantee on your soul after “Come At Me Fro”. That bit about the journalism break made me laugh. It’s all relative, isn’t it? And yeah, I did notice the movie made Bean clearly a bit more equally mean than the other two. It seems to me that happens in Dahl adaptations quite a bit, I remember Spiker being made the more major antagonist in the James and the Giant Peach adaptation whereas the book, she was described about as comically skinny as Sponge was comically plump (kind of like Bean was, I think, all I remember about him in the book was that Mr. Fox particularly hated his odour). Cuss, now you’ve got me picturing Donald Trump described in a Dahl book. I don’t know whether to laugh really hard or be disturbed. Though I’ve got to say, that Whack Bat gag did make me laugh, because that scene is clearly how both of us view most sports. This is probably the first time everyone was just as confused as we were while trying to watch a game.

  14. Wait a minute, that rat that talked like that one dude in Family Guy was voiced by the Green Goblin? Wow, that’s a new one for me. He did a pretty good performance with it, I have to say. Loved that Wolverine reference as well. It’s a wonder you didn’t (as some have) point out that this movie appear to make Fox’s severed tail out to be an emasculation metaphor. Maybe the reviewers are a bit more Freudian than Anderson was, but if this is about adult fears, that’s definitely one on the list for sure. In any case, I take it you’d sympathize, something tells me if you came across Mrs. Bean wielding a carving knife, you’d vamoose pretty soon.

    Y’know, I kind of thought the revived roadkill look added to the style, rather than harming it, this movie’s overall quite the edgy kind of one, which made the character design seem appropriate to me. And wait, there wasn’t a slow-mo moment during the Ash/Kristofferson escape scene? My memory’s getting bad. Loved the speculation of the wolf moment in any case, definitely a memorable scene, that one.

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