Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BRIGHT-EYED BUSHY TALE; Director Wes Anderson Chooses Homemade Kookiness over CGI Trickery for His Take on Roald Dahl's Classic -- the Result Is Charming

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

BRIGHT-EYED BUSHY TALE; Director Wes Anderson Chooses Homemade Kookiness over CGI Trickery for His Take on Roald Dahl's Classic -- the Result Is Charming

Article excerpt

Byline: Andrew O'Hagan

FILM OF THE WEEK FANTASTIC MR FOX Cert PG, 87 mins ****

PEOPLE who make things up for a living are strange creatures and something interesting happens to them when they reach 40. I don't know whether it's to do with having children, but many of these artists begin to go to the wellsprings of invention. Suddenly, they are into children's stories and fairy tales, early cinema, animation, and the first principles of wonder.

This year is going to be a bumper one for this charming phenomenon: pete Docter (born 1968) and the guys at pixar have already given us the unspeakably brilliant Up; Spike Jonze (born 1969) will be along in a minute with Where the Wild Things Are (adapted by novelist Dave eggers, born 1970), and this week we have a very sweet version of Fantastic Mr Fox, directed by Wes Anderson (born 1969).

Roald Dahl has been served well by the cinema. As an author he wasn't afraid of nastiness, which is one of the things the cinema depends on for arresting drama. His humans (and other animals) could be touchy-feely but they could also be shouty-pushy, and children love that.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is remembered for the grandparents in the bed and the chocolate river but also for the sinister air of punishment that hangs over the narrat ive. Wes Anderson is similarly interested in bad character in Fantastic Mr Fox -- the animals can behave selfishly and the humans psychotically, and the film aims to take the audience through many thrilling twists and turns before the score is settled.

Mr Fox (voiced with relish by George Clooney) is a bit fond of stealing chickens. But after getting into a nasty scrape he promises his wife, Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep), that he is ready to settle down to a life of quiet domesticity. like many a male of the species, however, Mr Fox is liable at any moment to slide back into his old ways, and he displaces the temptation by investing in a bigger foxhole with a more strangulating mortgage. After a time, he wants to get back in the game. The three big local farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, have endless sheds of chickens and other goodies, and Mr Fox sets out to nab a few.

The film requires more action than the book has to offer, so Anderson's Mr Fox has more dimensions to his life, and the family members have more in the way of character. A kind of macho rivalry blows up between Mr Fox's son, Ash, and a vi s i t ing nephew named Kristofferson. There is also an appealingly adversarial Badger, voiced by Bill Murray, who tries to stand in the way of Mr Fox and some of his wilder schemes. But his main rivals remain the farmers, especially Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) who will stop at nothing to wreak revenge on Mr Fox and put an end to his entire brood.

There are several lovely things about this film. …

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