January 3, 2010

Movie Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

It only makes sense that Wes Anderson ('Rushmore,' 'The Royal Tenebaums') would make an animated movie. For years his movies have been both complimented and critiqued for their out-of-this-world characters, surreal plots, colorful backdrops and quirky soundtracks - in an animated world, those features just make sense. You can watch the trailer here.

Fantastic Mr. Fox succeeds at walking a fine line: It is both simple filmmaking at its best (Easy-to-follow plot based on a children's book by Roald Dahl, stop-go animation) and incredibly, incredibly intelligent (Anderson gives viewers a totally seamless jump into a complete - and completely delightful - new universe with quick dialogue, clever jokes and subtle and pitch perfect voice actors.). Of the 5 Oscar contenders Trevor and I saw over the last two weeks, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' was the best: Heart-warming without being sappy, laugh out loud funny without being pratfall-heavy or gross, smart without being pretentious.

The story is about a foxy Fox (It's true: He's voiced by George Clooney) who gave up the thieving life eleven years ago to start a family with his Meryl Streep-voiced wife. He wants to do one final job (a three-parter) because he's bored, worried about money, having a midlife-fox-crisis about who he is and needs to outsmart some mean farmers. Of course, being a smart movie, none of these reasons are explicit, you just realize them over the course of the quick 90 minutes.

Another reason it's perfect this movie was animated: Jason Schwartzman can finally play a teenager again. He's never better than when he's playing a whiny teenage-maturity-level manchild, but the facial hair can be a distraction. As Mr. & Mrs. Fox's son, jealous of his cousin's arrival, he's all sullen sass, and it's pretty near perfect.

9 Twix bars!