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Movie Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox (PG)

Chesapeake Family provides a family-friendly movie review of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, highlighting content that parents might find objectionable, such as sex, violence and language.

Stylish Movie isn’t Quite Fantastic

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of those movies that makes me wonder if the emperor has no clothes, but I don’t want to be the one to first claim that he’s naked.

The stop-motion animated film is based on the book by Roald Dahl, which I have never read. Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is a Cary Grantesque vulpine scoundrel, a chicken thief by trade. After a close call involving his pregnant wife (Meryl Streep), he leaves a life of crime and starts traipsing down the next most logical career path, becoming a newspaper columnist. He has a son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and a visiting nephew, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson.)

After Fox moves into a tree with a great view of the three biggest farms in the region, the proximity of such riches moves him into One Last Job. The Job starts, there is retaliation, and a movie ensues.

Director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tennenbaums) is a very stylized director, and he doesn’t abandon his typical flourishes just because he’s working on a kids’ film. There is much plunky music, intertitles, and much of the dialogue is delivered with a flat affect. Either you like this pronounced way of doing things, or you don’t (my husband informed me that he would prefer to watch Center Stage than sit though Rushmore again; my ex-boyfriend considered Rushmore one of the pinnacles of modern filmmaking.)

Personally, I’m just not sure how to categorize The Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s quirky. I was never bored. But I was never enraptured, either. It was odd to see such a pronounced visual style in animation (though not uncommon—thanks, Brad Bird!), but I’m not sure how kids will enjoy it in a world where Pixar-style hyper-real animation is the norm. The plot is simple enough for kids, and Anderson, who also wrote the screenplay, does put in some jokes for parents, but there’s nothing particular innovative about it (sorry, Mr. Dahl.) It was just a puzzle piece of a movie, and I’m not sure where it fits.

There is very little material that might be considered objectionable. Adult characters smoke and drink; some chickens meet an untimely and chompy end, but it’s offscreen. A minor character dies onscreen, but it’s neither particularly sad nor scary. There is some gunplay, and the characters use “cuss” as a stand-in for other profanity.

Maybe others will like this movie more than I did—it’s certainly happened before (I was the only person in the world who had real problems with Spider-Man 2.) But in trying to combine style with substance, Anderson just doesn’t quite make it.

Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family Magazine. She last reviewed The Blind Side.



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