I must confess I’ve never been a massive fan of Wes Anderson. All of his previous films have missed the mark with me and I’ve never really been able to get on board with the way he seemingly sacrifices content for collections of episodic off beat scenes that never really give us a satisfactory view of characters or the situations they find themselves in.
It is with great humility then that I put my hands up and say that, if this film is anything to go by, Wes Anderson is a genius. If there ever was a form that his style was supposed to be captured in, it’s this. All the things that grind me about Anderson’s filming style; whether that be the construction of awkward characters, the pause riddled silent heavy beats or the off topic asides, simply work so well in an animated animal based environment.
Disregard the little you may have seen in trailers, this film looks incredible throughout in a way you can only really appreciate by seeing more than snippets. Anderson has managed to simultaneously create a beautiful natural environment whilst also conveying so much about the nature of the characters through their movement and interactions with their surroundings alone. Seeing how Mr. Fox gets around is a treat in itself – just one of the many visual delights lying in wait throughout the course of the film.
I do feel that having to prescribe to an (albeit modified) existing narrative perhaps kept Anderson in line more than usual – preventing the usual meander through proceedings I’ve lamented in previous efforts. If anything I feel that the added finale really serves to compliment the characters created by Dahl and by moulded by Anderson, as well as bringing the narrative to a satisfactory conclusion that doesn’t completely overrule the way that Dahl ended the novel.
It’s been a point of contention that the primary cast (i.e. the animals) don’t have English voice actors – what with the film being set in the English countryside and all. I myself made it quite clear way back in episode one that I wasn’t overly happy about Anderson’s choice to recast all of his previous collaborators in the lead roles. I felt it showed a certain lack of imagination on Anderson’s part and would only lead to another occasion in which familiarity of talent would lead to a dull cinematic experience.
Again (for the second time this review for those who are counting) I hold my hands up and say I was completely wrong. Clooney, Streep, Dafoe and Murray all turn in great performances in their respective roles, but the real star here is Schwartzman whose depiction of Ash (Mr. Fox’s insecure son) really steals the show.
Visuals, narrative and voice acting aside, it’s all the little things that really made the film for me. That may be somewhat of an indescript statement but there really are too many of them littered throughout the proceedings to properly explain what I mean, whether that be the Latin speaking, the cussing, the digging, the fighting, double pneumonia, the stunt expo ramp or the wolf encounter to name but a few. The rules of whack bat were a particular favourite of mine and I’m fairly confident in saying it’s the little bits you’ll love too.
So negatives then. Every review needs them right? And this is where I struggle. The only remotely negative thing I can say about this film is that it’s a little short weighing in around eighty minutes. I wanted it to go on and could have happily sat in Dahl/Anderson’s world for at least another half an hour.
More of an observation here than a negative – it did become evident quite quickly that this film wasn’t intended for children – something that wouldn’t be obvious from the makeup of the audience in the screening I attended. Whether this derives from parental misconception or heavy handed marketing I don’t know, but the fact of the matter is that the pacing, dialogue and complex character work simply aren’t going to be understood and appreciated by a younger audience. In saying that I’m not trying to imply that children should not see this film – it’s more that I worry that this film is going to become yet another casualty of the supposition that animated films are only for kids. This film is so much more than another animal-centric animated kiddy film churned out for a quick buck.
I absolutely cannot recommend this film enough, it’d be easy for me to throw a bunch of superlatives in here about how much better this film is than most of the trash I’ve seen this year, but that would be somewhat redundant. After all, if my preceding musings (particularly the opening statement of this paragraph) haven’t persuaded you to go and see this film, then nothing else I can write will.
To put it shortly there isn’t anything about this film that isn’t brilliant or, perhaps more to the point, fantastic.
Post review sidenote – as I was leaving the cinema I saw a group of about ten kids all dancing near the screen to the ending song, obviously having a great time. As I got on the escalator I heard two kids behind me chatting away about their favourite bits and what they thought was going to happen at the end. I’d like to retract my earlier comment about this film being mis-marketed and wide of the mark for kids. Certainly they’ll have a very different cinematic experience to any mature cinemagoer, but that’s not to say it isn’t just as valid. If you’ve got kids, take them to see this – they’ll probably have a better time than I think they will…