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Fantastic Mr. Fox


Stars: Voices: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wally Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker, Karen Duffy, Roman Coppola, Brian Cox, Adrien Brody

Director: Wes Anderson

Anderson has become a cult director, which demands that all his films should be hailed by critics as the unique work of an auteur, regardless of their innate merit or otherwise.

Maybe, although its hard to see much merit in such pointless, pretentious and mostly irritating offerings as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited. This may explain why he has turned to stop-motion animation with his version of the Roald Dahl story in a (largely failed) attempt to breathe some life into Fantastic Mr Fox.

The very well photographed (by Tristan Oliver) tale finds the eponymous chicken thief abandoning his idyllic life as a husband and father and his job as a newspaper columnist to return to his old thieving ways, a decision that eventually lands him, his family and the entire animal community in danger at the hands of three evil famers.

There’s enough simple-minded comedy and slapstick to keep youngsters from tearing up their seats and a few cynical asides to placate adults but the end result is much more Anderson – a real pity, that – than Dahl. Anderson’s view of the apparently English countryside is somewhat addled, too, notable when cycling newspaper boy throws Mr Fox’s daily paper onto his lawn, American suburban-style. And American voices lead the way, leaving the three villainous farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean to be emoted, luvvie style, as fruity Englismen.

Mr Fox, described by the co-writer/director as ”sort of heroic and slightly vain” is voiced by Clooney: who else? Streep speaks for his wife and is wasted and Anderson adds to his auteurism by being the voice of a Weasel. As for Schwartzman as Ash, one can only suppose Anderson considers him to be some sort of good luck token - there can be no other reason for using him or, for that matter, apart from sentiment, for giving Owen Wilson a role.

It would appear that Anderson is happy with his movie but is it really? No. Adequate? Just about. Memorable? Not really. Dahl deserves better.

Alan Frank

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox. Colour by deluxe.
87 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 09 Nov 2009