Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson

movie cinema review

In an effort to keep better track of what I watch, I'm reviewing the movies and shows as much as I can. No spoilers in this one.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is a stop-motion movie about a fox whose love of stealing chickens from local farms endangers his family and community. It's based on a Roald Dahl book, which I've never read, and it stars George Clooney and is directed by Wes Anderson.

The story is surprisingly cataclysmic. What starts out as a Wind in the Willows (admittedly, I've never read that either) style "look at the little animals in clothes!" story pretty quickly becomes an armegeddon flick. Their homes are uprooted, they're pursued day and night by angry farmers, they're flushed out of their foxholes and burrows, captured, and threatened.

Despite the traumatic events happening in the story, the movie keeps it pretty light. Arguments can be severe but they're short. Everyone is pretty tolerant of Mr. Fox, especially considering the damage done (indirectly, I guess) by his actions.

Pretty much all of the characters act like Wes Anderson characters. They deliver their lines almost in monotone. One of the main character conflicts is between two cubs, because one is a natural athlete and the other one wants to be a natural athlete.

Possibly poignant

I think there are some moments when the story is supposed to be insightful or touching. When a rat dies, Mr. Fox asks what he'd wanted out of life, and the rat says "apple cider". That's an odd response, because the rat was guarding a stash of apple cider when we met him, and in fact was visibly sipping apple cider out of a hose connected to a jug of cider. So I guess he died completely fulfilled. When Mr. Fox gives him a sip of apple cider, it doesn't seem as poignant as I think the movie meant for it to be, because he's had so much cider in his life already.

Mr. Fox also makes two toasts near the end of the movie, neither of which are any good at all. He admits he didn't like the first one, but the second is the one the film ends on and it's rubbish. As last lines of movies go, this doesn't rank among the most profound or memorable: "The point is, we'll eat tonight, and we'll eat together. And even in this not particularly flattering light, you are the most wonderful animals I've ever met in my life."

There's an almost-poignant scene between Mr. and Mrs. Fox, when Mr. Fox is coming to terms with his own desire to be "fantastic", and Mrs. Fox says the line "I love you. But I shouldn't have married you." Confusingly, there's no follow-up on that very serious sentiment. I guess she changes her mind, because by the end of the movie they're still married and she reveals that she's pregnant. So that scene falls flat, ultimately.

The one scene that I think was meant to be poignant and actually succeeds, a little, is The Wolf scene. Mr. Fox and his friends are traveling along the road, and they see a wolf in the distance. Mr. Fox shouts a one-sided conversation with it, and then holds up a fist of solidarity, and drives away. Frankly, the scene is undermined by several references to Mr. Fox's phobia of wolves earlier in the movie, so it seems like this is just Mr. Fox facing his phobia after a particularly exhilarating escape from a farm. What the scene actually references, I think, is the idea that no matter how civilised the animal community becomes (in this fictional world), they're still, deep down, just wild animals. The wolf, distant, on all fours and unclothed (like a real wolf), probably represents the true nature that Mr. Fox and his community are suppressing. I guess that's a commentary on real life, sort of. At least, it's commentary in the sense that it mentions an aspect of reality. It doesn't make a statement about it, but it at least references that there's a certain amount of raw animalistic instinct that the civilised world has to contend with.

I guess there's nothing really poignant in this movie. And hey, maybe that's intentional. Maybe the movie isn't trying to be poignant.

Maybe the movie is just trying to tell a story.

Fantastic Mr. Clooney

One thing that comes through in this movie is just how likable George Clooney, as an actor, really is. Mr. Fox isn't actually very fantastic in this movie. He lies, he's basically going through a mid-life crisis, he makes some serious mistakes that nearly gets his entire community killed. I feel like I should be really disgusted by him. I should be angry at this irresponsible character. But he's voiced by George Clooney, and the way George Clooney talks is convincing and charming and calming. You can't help it.

It's interesting to me that Clooney is so likable, even hidden behind a stop-motion anthropomorphised fox. And it's interesting to me that Clooney can be so charming in this role, and sound like George Clooney, and yet still be unique from all the other characters he's played. I guess that's called acting, and I guess he must be really good at it.


It may seem, from my review, like this movie fails at a lot of what it tries. But actually I'm not sure that it's trying to be anything more than a story about a community of animals that get into some trouble with some farmers, and have to find new homes. It's like a really mundane version of Secret of NIMH.

In a way, I think there are two movies contained in this film. One is a Wes Anderson movie, and one is a Roald Dahl movie. And neither of those, as it turns out, is as good as the secret George Clooney movie that steals the show in the end.

Lead photo by Anika De Klerk on Unsplash

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