Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox (PG)

In all honesty it has not been easy to reconcile my love for animation with the decidedly poor quality displayed in Wes Anderson’s latest. Even as a fan of the director I could not quite get my head around the dated, inexpressive animation and only after many trailer viewings did I begin to warm to it.

His masterpiece this most certainly is not, but it’s bloody good fun all the same. In fact, in terms of pure entertainment this is by far his strongest film since Bottle Rocket (1996). Anderson’s trademark offbeat humour is magnified by the absurdity of talking animals which actually provides a far more comfortable outlet for comedy than any of his previous works.

Despite the lack of child-snaring gimmicks so typical of modern mainstream animation, Fox somehow manages to strike a perfect balance between family friendly and slyly adult – the use of the word “cuss” to replace swearing being just one of several risqué but clean comedic gems. Perhaps most impressive is the way in which Wes Anderson has retained his auteur-istic charms despite moving to a radically different medium. The extended takes, static camera shots and unnatural blocking are all present, along with uncomfortable silences, bizarre verbal exchanges, folk music... and Bill Murray.

However, Fox isn’t perfect. The whole affair moves far too briskly as if Anderson feared the onset of restlessness from the younger audience members. Oftentimes the film sags under its many subplots much like in the horribly unfocused The Life Aquatic (2004) and it becomes quite difficult to recognise the original Roald Dahl novel underneath all the decoration. Still, story problems aside, there is no denying that what Anderson has achieved during his sojourn into the realms of animation is nothing short of fantastic.


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