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Thu November 19, 2009
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Sartre and Satire
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time," "Cinema Classics," and "On the Marquee"
Fantastic Mr. Fox is acclaimed director Wes Anderson's first animation, specifically stop-motion, and it's, well, fantastic.
George Clooney's voice as the head fox of an animal clan that shouts diversity is straight out of Danny Ocean-- cool and witty with an overlay of sentimentality that would convince you to open your henhouse door to let him have his way. That's after his little speech that tries existentialism on for size, foxwise that is: "Why a fox? Why not a horse, or a beetle, or a bald eagle? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know? Who am I?"
As the animals pull a caper against farmer Bean (Michael Gambon) and his thugs, the animation pulls away from the gloom of another winner this year, Where the Wild Things Are, and confirms the fun of a well told beast fable with loads of anthropomorphism to reaffirm our love of humanity and confirm that animals, like us, will always be animals. The ease with which Anderson/Clooney convince that this stealing and mayhem are what animals do is a tribute to script and performance that seduce us into the stylistic den of thieves known as the fox lair and all its attitude and custom, sanctioned by mother nature herself.
Mr. Fox: "The cuss am I? Are you cussing with me?"
Badger (Bill Murray): "No, you cussing with me?"
Mr. Fox: "Don't cussing point at me!"
Such an exchange is indicative of the fun Anderson has with kids and adults by not bombarding the youngsters with profanity but winking at the adults as if to say, "You know what I mean." And the most violent moment comes not from scenes with guns but rather where the animals steal chickens and break their necks, done so gingerly and quietly that it seems what it is: Just what foxes do and what humans must do to eat the chickens. Darwin meets the cartoons:
Mr. Fox: "And how can a fox ever be happy without, you'll forgive the expression, a chicken in its teeth?"
That's Wes Anderson for you: Sartre and satire with a dash of dashing fox.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain