Unreal Movie Review: The Fantastic Mr. Fox


Somehow lost in all the hype over Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are was the other film based on a children’s book and directed by a hipster.  That other film, of course, is Fantastic Mr. Fox, and that hipster is none other than Wes Anderson.  I was unsure of how a stop-motion animated film would resonate, especially one directed by a guy who traditionally seems to get so much out of awkward silences and beats.  My worries quickly vanished after just five minutes of Fantastic Mr. Fox, however, a clever, soulful, original, and funny movie for audiences of any age.


I’ll get one thing out of the way: this movie has Wes Anderson’s fingerprints all over it.  If you didn’t know that Anderson directed Fox before watching, you’d be able to figure it out almost immediately.  It’s tough to explain exactly how you’d pin it for an Anderson movie, but if you’ve seen any of them – The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, etc. – you’d know that Fox is of the same ilk.  From one of the very first scenes in which Mr. Fox is stretching (which for some reason reminded me of Chas Tenenbaum) to the matter-of-fact yellow text that appears on screen throughout the movie, highlighting chapters, Fox is saturated with Wes Anderson-ness.  Needless to say, if you’re a fan of Anderson’s movies, then Fox is for you.  If you aren’t, well, you still might enjoy this one anyway.

The story of Mr. Fox isn’t very complex – once leading a risky yet lucrative life of stealing chickens, Mr. Fox has since settled down in a hole with his wife and instead writes a newspaper column.  Mr. Fox has since had a son – Ash – and, tired of living in a hole, purchases a home in a tree against the advice of his lawyer, Badger.  The tree sits just across the farms of Boggins, Bunce, and Bean, the three most prominent (and dangerous) farmers in the land.  Mr. Fox’s supremely talented and eccentric nephew, Kristofferson, stays with the family in the tree, too, and is often at odds with Ash.  Mr. Fox gets the itch that must be present in all wild animals and resorts to stealing again.  This lands him in a lot of trouble not only with his family and the farmers, but with the rest of the animals living in the area, too.  It’s a fun, straightforward story, but manages to avoid becoming cliche or predictable.


I’ve never given too much thought to voice acting one way or another, but George Clooney is remarkable as Mr. Fox.  Who better to play a charismatic, charming, and somewhat overconfident thief than George Clooney?  His voice gives Mr. Fox life and helps to create a character; instead of seeing a crudely animated figure of a fox, we see an animal with desires and dreams.  Meryl Streep is naturally terrific as Felicity Fox, Jason Schwartzman is perfect for the emo Ash, and Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe also lend their recognizable voices to the characters in Fox.  It’s the strength of the voice acting that allows the audience to actually empathize with the animals on screen as if they were humans.

One humorous aspect of Fox, though, is that the characters are indeed animals, and Anderson does a good job of reminding us of that fact from time to time – often in a hilarious way.  I don’t want to give away any of the jokes, but you’d be surprised how someone as sophisticated as Mr. Fox actually eats his food.  There’s more than just visual humor in the film, too; Anderson creates a rather appropriate euphemism when the characters cuss.


There are a couple of deeper themes found in Fox, but fortunately they’re nowhere near as dreary as those found in Where the Wild Things AreFox briefly addresses the existentialistic question of what it means to be an animal, as well as the ability to change oneself for the betterment of others, and without a hard look at these concepts, the film avoids sinking down into depression while simultaneously avoiding pretentiousness.  Granted, even including these themes tends to gear the film more toward adults than children, but a quick glossing over of the themes also gives a little bit of soul to Fox.  After all, this movie isn’t just about Mr. Fox outsmarting the three evil farmers, it’s about him coming to terms with being an animal and living his life the way he wants.

All in all, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a terrific movie.  It’s aesthetically unique, tender, and I’d even dare say, at times, beautiful (the “waterfall” scene, for instance).  The voice acting is among the best I’ve ever heard, turning the animals into creatures we actually care about.  And most significantly, Fantastic Mr. Fox is just plain fun, without being too dumbed-down or too pretentious.  I must have laughed out loud at least half a dozen times throughout the movie.  If you’ve got kids, you may want to take them to see this one…but you’ll probably end up liking it a lot more than they do.

4 out of 5 Stars

Similar Posts


  1. Wonderful film. I didn’t have a big interest in seeing The Darjeeling Limited, and I was pretty disappointed in The Life Aquatic. After TLA I kind of gave up on Wes Anderson and only went to this after hearing rave reviews and at the behest of my girlfriend. I really loved it.

    I’m really glad that Wes Anderson didn’t fall into the same trap that Tim Burton has fallen into: A brilliant director that sacrificed plot and character development for stark visuals and rehiring actors.

    He has done with this film what Tim Burton has been trying to accomplish since Edward Scissorhands, which is successfully mix those stark visuals with an intriguing story. This is sorely lacking in everything that Burton has done since. He’s been coasting for years.

  2. @ Kevin

    Wow, could not agree more with your thoughts on Burton. His films – Edward Scissorhands in particular, as you pointed out – used to have a lot of heart and great, original stories. Now, a “Tim Burton film” simply means that you’ll have lots of twisted structures and checkerboard floors. It seems like he’s really mailing it in these days.

    It’s nice to see talented directors with some ambition and the willingness to try something new.

  3. @ kevin

    Anderson certainly has a very distinguished visual style and spotting common actors across his films is anything but difficult. In fact, I’m quite surprised neither of the Owen brothers’ voices turned up in Mr. Fox. I have never thought to compare him with Tim Burton, but generally I would have to agree with you. Burton is known as the dark and sour director with a slight comedic vein, but most of those dark and sour notes come from his visuals, not always the stories themselves.

    Anderson, on the other hand, often does a good job of letting his characters radiate their emotions and it gives us a real feel. It lets us connect with the characters on an emotional level, as often the emotions conveyed in Anderson movies are ones we’ve all felt before: confusion, discontempt, love for one’s direct family, jealousy, spirituality, humor, and so on.

    I personally love Wes Anderson’s style. The first one I saw was the Royal Tenenbaums. Since then I haven’t been disappointed yet. I thought TLA was hilarious and The Darjeeling Ltd is one of my favorite “feel-good” flicks of all time (solely for the love the brothers share underneath all the sneakiness and rivalry). Even though Bottle Rocket didn’t share the same upper-class & cultured visual style as most of his other films, it still had lovable characters and the sibling-rivalry thing was there too.

    I imagine that Mr. Fox has no problem displaying these traits. This makes me very excited to see this film as I am interested to discover how Anderson keeps up his distinguished vogue through the adaptation of a children’s novel.

  4. @ Madison

    Forgot to mention – great review! I wanted to see this already but you solidified my decision to pay the 8 bucks for a theatre seat 🙂

  5. Madison, I could not agree more with your review. I saw this movie last week and loved it. This was exciting for me, because I usually just don’t get Wes Anderson movies, and have long wondered why they are given such high praise. As far as his movies go, I’ve developed two possible theories as to why they get such high praise.

    a) They really are great movies, but are like being told a joke that you just don’t get the punch line to. (If they are great I feel bad that I am just not hip enough to enjoy them the way others seam to.)


    b) They really are not all that great. However, no one wants to admit that they are missing it, and so they claim to love them for fear of sounding dumb. (A problem I clearly do not have.)

    that being said, I think that Mr. Fox is an accomplishment, because I think it just works. I got it. I loved it, and was one of the more entertaining movies that I have seen all year. If I had a gripe, I would say that the movie felt a touch too long. Other then that I was very, very entertained.

  6. @ illeaturfamily

    Based on your comment, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy this movie.

    @ theButterFly

    My attraction to Wes Anderson movies is mostly the characters. There’s little action, and the stories are really stories about people. I understand he has a very distinct style that isn’t for everyone – it even wears on me from time to time – but his characters are so well-written and dynamic. I think that Mr. Fox had the benefit of a very well-written character (Fox), but not overly complex and without all the Wes Anderson quirkiness normally associated with his characters/film.

  7. I finally got around to seeing this last night, and it was amazing. I laughed out loud many times (I didn’t really care…we were 2 of 6 people in the theater), and found myself just smiling throughout the whole film. It was truly fascinating to see this film come to life. Jason Schwartzman was perfect as Ash, with his calm yet angry voice (contradicts but it’s true).

    The scene with Mr. Fox and Badger hissing and fighting with each other had me cracking up. What the cuss??

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.