This is hard for me to write because this movie, "Fantastic Mr. Fox", was recommended to me by some very dear friends. I had been looking forward to seeing it for weeks, especially since it was nominated along with "Up" as one of the best Animated Films of the year. When it finally arrived in the mail, I sat my whole family down for a movie night. Now, animated films have come a long way in the past 20 years. The stories are better, funnier, they have a new appeal that reaches across all ages, and the advancements made to the actual animation are astounding. So I was expecting something pretty special. I didn't get it.
"Fantastic Mr. Fox" is based on the Roald Dahl story of the same name. Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) is a fox who has a wild past but has now settled down to domestic life and is trying his best to be good. However, when he becomes dissatisfied with living in a hole, his wife (voiced by Meryl Streep) drolly points out that they are foxes, foxes live in holes, that's what they do. This does nothing to alleviate his dissatisfaction and he decides to move the family to a tree house. One of the funniest scenes in the movie actually happens right at the beginning when Mr. Fox is discussing his dissatisfaction with their hole with Mrs. Fox and their son, Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) keeps appearing in the kitchen. The dialogue between the teenager and his parents is spot on (obviously the writers have teenagers at home.)
Mr. Fox takes the family to look at tree houses and another quite funny scene unfolds with the real estate agent and the buying of the house. This house happens to be right across from three of the meanest farmers in town, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Mr. Fox can't help himself and he decides to pull a raid on the three farmers as his last escapade. From there the film disintegrates into a madcap, ridiculous adventure that, for me, lost all of it's humor and appeal. It was full of cliches, and while some of the dialogue and portrayals were clever, most of it was just silly. Another problem with this film was the style of the animation. It's a stop-action film that reminded me of the old Gumby cartoon at times and had an almost claustrophobic feel to it. I realize that most of the film was acted out underground, but even the scenes set on the farms or around the tree seemed dark and heavy. By the end of the film, I felt relieved to get out. I also felt relieved to stop listening to George Clooney. I admire George as an actor, but he does tend to do roles where he has to talk a lot ("Michael Clayton" "Up in the Air") and this was no exception. I kept drifting off during Mr. Fox's rants and getting confused as to what was happening in the film. His voice just became irritating.
I wish I had read the original story of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" before I saw this film. Maybe it would have helped, or maybe not. Animated films today are held to a higher standard than ever before so it may be that this just didn't live up to those standards for me. I expect a beautiful film, both in the way it looks and in the story, and this fell short in both regards. It's still fun at times and has a good message, but for me, I'm with Mr. Fox - I don't want to be in that hole again either.