Monday, April 11, 2011

Fantastic Mr. Fox

(Movie Reviews)

I saw this movie based off of my friend Brett's recommendation.
Brett had apparently gone into this movie with his younger nieces and nephews expecting your standard animated children's film, and had been pleasantly surprised to discover it was full of Wes Anderson's quirky sense of humor.

Like Brett, I too consider myself a Wes Anderson fan. I haven't seen everything the man has done, but I have enjoyed "Rushmore", "The Royal Tenebaums," and "The Life Aquatic."

(Although I did write in my review of "The Life Aquatic":
Like all Wes Anderson films, however, this has a tendency to go on for a little bit too long, and get bogged down in the middle. I had the same criticism of “Rushmore” and “Royal Tenebaums.” )

This wasn't as true with "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Perhaps because at 87 minutes it's shorter than any of the other Wes Anderson movies I've seen so far. And perhaps because, as a children's movie, the plot and pacing is kept a little tighter. But there were a few moments when I was squirming in my seat slightly. That last scene at the end, for example, seemed to go on for just a few beats too long.

And yet, as with the other Wes Anderson films I've seen, I always walk away chuckling. Sure they may have some slow moments, but I always walk away remembering the funny parts.
And the Wes Anderson humor grows on me. There are bits that the more I think about it, the funny they seem to be, so that I usually find the movie much funnier two days afterwards than I did when I was actually watching it. (I don't know if everyone reacts that way to Wes Anderson films, or if it's just me.) Like for example, the newspaper column Mr. Fox writes, and which he complains that his friends don't read. Or Mr. Fox making a recording of his chicken stealing plans for his records. Or pretty much any of Bill Murray's lines.

(Incidentally, Bill Murray became one of my favorite actors after I started seeing him in Wes Anderson films. Before Wes Anderson, I had been largely indifferent to Bill Murray, but Wes Anderson really knows how to make full use of Murray's dry humor. I hope the two of them continue to have many more collaborations in the future.)

Aside from the story about animals, and aside from the animation, there seems to be very little to mark this as a children's movie. Wes Anderson's unique brand of humor doesn't seem to be made any easier for the children to grasp. You would think that the studio would have inserted a lot more obvious punchlines or slapstick humor or something to make this movie more marketable for children, but, astonishingly, they resisted that temptation.

Actually the one concession that Wes Anderson seems to have made for the children's market is that all the cuss words are replaced by the word "cuss." As in "He's a cuss of a lot bigger?" or "What the cuss are you talking about?", et cetera.
This becomes a bit of humor in and off itself with the word "cuss" popping up in all sorts of situations.
It's the usual Wes Anderson ironic humor, of course, but if you like that thing it's on full display here.
(It's also a brilliant satire on the American tendency to assign moral values to phonemic utterances. When you substitute one semantically meaningless word for another semantically meaningless word, does that make it less morally bad? It obviously confused the MPAA ratings board. They ended up settling on giving this film a PG rating for what they called "slang humor.")

My only big complaint is that I wish they would have gotten younger voice actors to play the parts of the adolscents in this film. Their voices I think come off as sounding way too adult, and it takes me out of the film a bit. Other than that, a brilliantly done film.

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