Director Wes Anderson (The Darjeeling Limited The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou) was the subject of a minor controversy a few months ago when an L.A. Times profile alleged that the idiosyncratic auteur rarely visited the London set of Fantastic Mr. Fox his stop-motion adaptation of the Road Dahl children's tale preferring instead to issue orders to his crew via email. If the report is indeed true Anderson’s poor attendance record certainly didn’t detract from the final result. Fantastic Mr. Fox is an utter delight: a lively endearing comic caper that will appeal equally to both young and old hipster and non-hipster alike.
Having too often overdosed on self-conscious quirk in the past Anderson shows admirable restraint with Fantastic Mr. Fox and the result is undoubtedly his most entertaining and accessible film yet. Admittedly the film’s old school retro-style animation does take some getting get used to; younger audience members raised on a steady diet of cutting-edge Pixar flicks might even suspect that they’re watching some relic produced before they were born. But their skepticism will quickly fade as soon they’re drawn into the first of several increasingly audacious farm heists mounted by the clever Mr. Fox (voiced with easygoing charm by George Clooney) and his rag-tag crew of woodland critter pals.
Despite its mainstream appeal Fantastic Mr. Fox retains the distinctive feel of a Wes Anderson film. Clooney and co-star Meryl Streep are complemented by a supporting cast of Anderson regulars including Bill Murray Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. The film’s art direction is as stylish and nuanced as its stop-motion animation is precise; its soundtrack littered with the familiar sounds of the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. And Mr. Fox’s flair for elaborate intricately-planned heists is reminiscent of one of Anderson’s earliest and most beloved characters Bottle Rocket’s Dignan.
In an era of animated films produced increasingly by committee it’s refreshing to see one that bears the singular style and personality of its director. After watching Fantastic Mr. Fox I for one wouldn’t be the least bit dismayed if Anderson never made another live-action film again.