8.03.2013

Cinematic Saturdays: The Fantastic Mr. Fox


This time of year, with its ice cream trucks and back-to-school specials, always makes me super nostalgic. So this week we’re taking a little trip down memory lane (if you’re a Roald Dahl fan, that is).




Title: The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Author:  Roald Dahl
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1970
Pages: 94
Genre: Children's

Rating: 

Summary (from Goodreads): 
Fantastic Mr. Fox is on the run! The three meanest farmers around are out to get him. Fat Boggis, squat Bunce, and skinny Bean have joined forces, and they have Mr. Fox and his family surrounded. What they don’t know is that they’re not dealing with just any fox–Mr. Fox would never surrender. But only the most fantastic plan ever can save him now.


As the title suggests, The Fantastic Mr. Fox follows, well, Mr. Fox as he thieves various farmers of small livestock. Three in particular, farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, are among his favorites to burgle. If you’ll indulge me:

“Boggis, Bunce, and bean
one fat, one short, one lean.
Those horrible crooks
so different in looks
are nonetheless equally mean"

In a nutshell, these three chumps get sick of Mr. Fox breaking into their barns and stealing their livelihoods (the nerve). While they are, as previously stated, chumps, and likely deserve having their crap taken, they decide, as many others would, to defend their property. (So many commas!). It begins with a gun-happy stakeout outside the Fox family den. They figure, “hey, the sun’s down. He’ll come out soon to steal our poultry and we’ll blast him to kingdom come!” Or something like that. So when Mr. Fox predictably slithers out to steal himself a juicy goose, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean open a Sam’s-Club-sized can of whoopass on his behind. No, seriously, they shoot his tail off. So Mr. Fox rushes back inside to warn the family (which in the book consists of his wife and four children), and they all begin to dig. Good thing, too, since the farmers have now decided to rent bulldozers and shovel the foxes out.

((So many parentheses!))


To make a long story short (too late), the Foxes team up with some other critters to take advantage of the farmer’s absence, and tunnel up into their barns for the biggest heist yet. All said critters then decide, “hey, with access to all this food, we never have to go outside again!” And they live indefinitely underground, stuffing themselves with the farmer’s stolen fare.


Seriously, if you’re having a bad day, read this book. It will take the same amount of time as one episode of whatever horrible (but admittedly addictive) reality TV show you were planning to watch.

Rating:

To my tremendous delight, the incomparable Wes Anderson adapted The Fantastic Mr. Fox to film in 2009. And in stop-motion, no less!


The movie embellishes quite a bit story wise, but I honestly don’t mind. Anderson’s quirky style is so appropriate for Roald Dahl that the changes seem original. His additions mesh so seamlessly, in fact, that the majority of the quotes on goodreads attributed to Roald Dahl’s work actually appear exclusively in the movie. Good on ya, Wes.

There’s a substantial amount more character development/depth in the movie than the book, particularly with relationships. For example, in the book, Mrs. Fox (voiced by Maryl Streep) is nothing more than a slightly weak, doting wife. In the movie she’s a former hussy (no, really) who’s since reformed and paints landscapes in attempt to cope with her husband’s kleptomania. She resents their new life on the run, and blames Mr. Fox (George Clooney) for stealing their chance at a normal existence. Their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), an only child, feels taken for granted and tirelessly craves the attention of his narcissistic, emotionally unavailable father. 



The almost gritty emotional dynamics are just so ironic when paired with Claymation animals in suits that it becomes impossible not to laugh. This is a hilarious movie that I’m certain can be enjoyed by viewers of any age. And on a slightly unrelated note, virtually every character in this movie is voiced by a household name. I love, love, love that Wes Anderson committed so much time and attention to detail to a children’s book.


Speaking of detail, every character in the movie was given a fully formed, delightfully remedial identity. They drink coffee and go to school and have day jobs. Mr. Fox himself is a columnist for a dying newspaper. His friends Badger and Weasel are lawyers, with the fancy suits and brief cases to prove it.


And that’s not even counting the tremendous artistic ability and patience exercised in the production of this film. When you consider that each frame was built, photographed, strung together, edited, etc., it’s pretty mind-boggling. The character’s facial expressions alone make my head spin.  

Crazy!
In case you hadn’t surmised, I love this movie and Wes Anderson in general. If you haven’t already, go watch The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited. Immediately. …Or else. And then devote some time to The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

As always, feel free to offer suggestions for other comparison reviews and purchase either book or film via the links below. Thanks for tuning in, and see you next weekend!