Magazine article The Spectator

Animal Caper

Magazine article The Spectator

Animal Caper

Article excerpt

Fantastic Mr Fox

PG, Nationwide

Fantastic Mr Fox is actually no more than So-So Mr Fox, if that, and I was pretty bored right from the get-go.

The animation is beautiful, the attention to detail is a thing of wonder - with enough mise-en-scenes to keep even the most fanatical mise-en-scene-ists happy - but the story is a mess, the script is banal and, as visually stunning as it all is, it just doesn't seem to have any kind of soul. I don't know what Roald Dahl, who wrote the original story, would say, but I'm betting it's something along the lines of, 'Clear off.

I'm busy. Don't come back.' He was always quite grumpy, by all accounts, although you wouldn't know it from this. You'd just think he was a sentimental old fool.

Directed by Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums), who also adapted the story along with Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale), I can see it wouldn't have worked without significant elaboration. Fantastic Mr Fox is one of Dahl's slighter stories, and is simply about a family of foxes who enter into a war with three farmers - Boggis, Bunce and Bean - from whom they have been stealing chickens. The farmers band together and destroy their home, sending the fox family underground where they team up with other animals and formulate a plan to outsmart the three dastardly Bs once and for all. It is and always has been a morally confusing tale. If we are against the farmers because they want to kill the fox, why are we not against the fox who wants to kill chickens? But enough of all that, especially as I am no moral philosopher, except for on Tuesday mornings and then only if I have the time. (I also do the weekly supermarket shop on a Tuesday morning, so sometimes the moral philosophy has to take a backseat. ) A film does not have to be a slave to a book, but one hopes something of the spirit of a book remains, and here it simply doesn't. It's as if Mr Anderson took the spirit of the book, showed it the door, and instructed it never to show its face around these parts again. Here, the foxes are no longer just foxes that dig a lot. Here, they're anthropomorphised to such an extent they stand on two feet, make their getaways on motorbikes, use mobiles, watch TV, are dressed up to the nines and also appear to be in regular employment. …

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