Saturday, 2 July 2011

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

Mr Fox is tired of living in a hole, so he buys a lovely beech tree in the country for himself and his family to live in. Years ago when Mr and Mrs Fox found out that they were expecting a cub, they both swore to stay away from trouble and never steal chickens again. However, old habits die hard, and Mr Fox hatches a plan to steal chickens from the three major farms in the area: Bean’s, Boggis’, and Bunce’s farms. However, not all goes to plan, Mr Fox is rumbled and the farmers give chase, destroying their tree-home along the way and generally chasing the Fox family and many other woodland creatures around. They tunnel and tunnel and tunnel, and eventually surface from the sewers into a supermarket (yes there is a man-hole cover in the supermarket! Eh?). The creatures all celebrate that they have found such a paradise of food. The end.

Now, I’ve never read Fantastic Mr Fox (one of the few Roald Dahl books that I haven’t) so I have no idea how the film compares with the novel; though I do suspect that it deviates quite a bit. The animation is really cool; it is essentially stop motion, but it is done very well. I really loved the twitchy whiskers, and there’s a great scrap between Mr Fox and Rat that is almost strobe-effect, with lots of electrocutions! The voice cast is also very accomplished; Mr Fox: George Clooney; Mrs Fox: Meryl Streep; Badger: Bill Murray; Rat: Willem Dafoe; and the farmer Franklin Bean: Michael Gambon.

The trouble is that the film doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. Most of the main characters are American, but naturally the farmers (the villains of the story) are British. There are lots of American influences (baseball game - called Wackbat! -, one of the main characters is an opossum another a beaver); but there is also a definite Britishness to it  (Red post box, pub called the Nag’s Head, English countryside). The overall effect was a bit disorientating I thought. Especially with the overuse of “cuss” whenever a character was meant to be swearing! At one point I’m sure someone says “that was a total cluster-cuss!” or something similar. Come on, this is a kids film! Like I say, I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure Roald Dahl did not write an Americans vs British novel with lots of cussing in it; and quick search of the DVD on Amazon seems to confirm this.

I was really hoping to enjoy this; a friend had seen it at the cinema with his 5-year old son, and had said that they had enjoyed it. Perhaps it is better when seen through a child’s eyes and their enthusiasm rubs off on you. My overall impression: Meh.