Much to the disappointment of many of my students over the years, I’m not a Wes Anderson fan. I liked a few scenes in Bottle Rocket. I liked Rushmore up until the end. Then I came up against The Royal Tenenbaums.
After I saw it, I read a piece somewhere that stuck with me because I agreed so heartily; unfortunately, I couldn’t locate the exact reference just now. Essentially, the writer said that going to a Wes Anderson movie was a lot like going to a dinner party where a precocious child is seated at the table and dominating the conversation. At first, it’s amusing to hear the child, but after awhile, you just want to send him to bed so the adults can talk together without interruption.
That’s sort of how I’ve felt about a the Anderson films, and I realize this may make me seem hopelessly uncool. He’s clever. His films have amusing bits. They just don’t work for me from start to finish. I get it – I really do – but I’m not moved by these films. Until now, that is.
I do like Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson and Noah Baumbach co-authored the screenplay (and I was crazy about Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale), which is based on Roald Dahl’s story. I love the hominess of the analog animation (old-fashioned but still a lot better than the claymation film I made in graduate school!). The celebrity voices, including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe, and Bill Murray, are fun but fortunately do not overshadow the quirkiness and the heart of this feature.
In the final analysis, that’s it. The heart is what pulls me in. Mr. and Mrs. Fox are easier to relate to than the human farmers who come after them (with just cause), and the dynamics of their struggling family resonate in these difficult times. Despite the hardship, however, the film is just a lot of fun. The script is sharp, the visuals appealing, and sometimes a little fantasy offers a welcome escape.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is rated PG, and it might be a little scary for younger children.