Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA/United Kingdom, 2009. Twentieth Century Fox, Indian Paintbrush, Regency Enterprises, American Empirical Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox Animation. Screenplay by Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, based on the novel by Roald Dahl. Cinematography by Tristan Oliver. Produced by Allison Abbate, Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Scott Rudin. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Nelson Lowry. Film Editing by Ralph Foster, Stephen Perkins, Andrew Weisblum. Academy Awards 2009. Golden Globe Awards 2009. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2009. National Board of Review Awards 2009. National Society of Film Critics Awards 2009. New York Film Critics 2009. Online Film Critics Awards 2009. Washington Film Critics Awards 2009.
In adapting a book by Roald Dahl, Wes Anderson finds the perfect balance of perspectives as Dahl’s whimsy is convincingly made Anderson’s own, and the story is fine-tuned to towards the milquetoast characterizations and small-arc plot turns that made films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums so satisfying. George Clooney and Meryl Streep do excellent work as the voices of a married fox couple who are subject to the husband’s ambition. Having given up chicken-thieving as a career and taken up newspaper work, Mr. Fox wants to no longer live in a hole and moves the family to a grand oak tree; he doesn’t mention to Mrs. Fox that the tree has within its view the three most successful farms in the world. Old habits die hard, so as soon as the wife’s back is turned, Fox is teaming up with his possum friend Kylie and pulling off some very daring robberies that rank up there with the best scenes in Bottle Rocket. Unfortunately the farmers get wind of the sly fox and his techniques, and an all-out war erupts between man and beast. Meanwhile, our hero’s young son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) is suffering for being slightly different (hand motions apply) while his visiting cousin Kristofferson gets all the praise for being brilliant at everything, which does nothing for the father-son relationship at the heart of the story. Anderson’s dryly subtle humour and talent for throat-lumping poignancy is not in any way diminished by the genre of animation (and such animation, classic stop-motion no less), making for one of the sweetest and most pleasurable films in his oeuvre.