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Fantastic Mr. Fox (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox / 2009 / 87 Minutes / Rated PG
Street Date: March 23, 2010
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Reviewed by Aaron Peck
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is the latest from the ever quirky Wes Anderson, director of such dryly humorous films as 'Bottle Rocket,' 'Rushmore,' and 'The Royal Tenenbaums.' Here Anderson tries his hand at creating a stop motion animated picture based on Roald Dahl's famous children's book.
Mr. Fox steals chickens. He's good at it, especially when he uses a patented bandit mask (an essential tool for all fox banditry). Mr. Fox is tired of living like a fox, in a hole, and so he decides to buy a nice quaint house that is located in the middle of a large tree overlooking three farms. The three farmers that own the farms are Boggis, Bunce, and Bean ("One fat, one small, and one mean" – as the rhyme goes).
Yet although Mr. Fox has moved from his fox hole, he can't give up his foxy ways. So he comes up with three ingenious master plans to break into each of the three farms in order to steal the farmer's specialty foods like chicken, roast turkey, and alcoholic apple cider.
George Clooney is the voice of Mr. Fox and you get the feeling he's channeling the crazier George Clooney days. Not so much 'Ocean's Eleven,' more like 'O, Brother Where Art Thou.' Fox has a charisma and bravado that only Clooney can provide. Other woodland animals inhabit the film. Badgers, beavers, weasels, and rats just to name a few. All of them are voiced by the obligatory stars, like Bill Murray and so on.
When the farmers find out that a fox has been stealing their food, all out war is declared as they use everything from guns to dirt movers to get Mr. Fox and his family.
The movie's main achievement is the animation that is unlike any anything else out there. The characters are richly detailed, lending to a wonderfully put together look. The fur is immaculate. It moves and sways with the character's movements, and at other times it moves completely on its own. What a wondrous film to look at.
Anderson has done a fantastic job capturing the true nuttiness of Dahl's story, while keeping the look and feel of the movie perfectly Wes Anderson-like. The color scheme virtually screams his name as earth tones dominate. The writing is matter of fact, and to the point. The humor is dry, and will certainly fly over the heads of children (with not many of the parents understanding it either).
'Fantastic Mr. Fox,' with all its wit and charm is just that, fantastic! But, as I sat there watching I couldn't help but wonder if this film can be marketable to the masses. Will it appeal to parents or children? Both or neither? I don't know. The writing is clever, but as Anderson has a tendency to do, there are times he loses himself in his creativity and forgets that a variety of people will be watching his film. Will the children like it? Well, the film is extremely dialogue heavy, which is delivered at lightning quick speed, mostly by Mr. Fox. This speedy dialogue will zoom in one ear and out the other of smaller children, and may end up confounding some adults. There is a bit of slapstick humor, like dogs getting big black "X's" in their eyes when they suddenly fall asleep from sleeping powder, which will make them laugh. Other than the blatant in your face humor, kids will most likely be dumbfounded during the rest of the movie. The moral of the story, redemption, is another abstract term that may be too hard for children to grasp.
The film is definitely beautiful to look at and it sure is nice to see modern day movies embracing the animation technology of yesteryear. It is a sharply written movie, but I concede it may not be for everyone. It is a wonderfully moral tale, but again I must say that I don't think the ethical values will be translated in some people's minds. People must be encouraged to see such a delightful movie full of heart and brimming with creativity. Just beware, this isn't a generic shut-your-brain-off-and-have-your-kids-babysat-for-an-hour-and-a-half movie experience.
This is a wiz-bang, over-the-top movie experience that will either cause an outpouring of cinematic love or a bewildering head shake of disbelief.
'Fantastic Mr. Fox' sneaks its way onto Blu-ray with a finely detailed, solid 1080p transfer. The first thing you'll notice about this transfer is its attention to fine detail. Each and every hair is visible, without a single bit of aliasing detected on the fringes. The textures of the animal's clothing, like Mr. Fox's Corduroy suit, or Ash's bathroom towel/cape, are meticulously defined and visible. In noteworthy Wes Anderson style the film revels in its parched color palette of dingy yellows and soft browns. While it isn't a richly color-filled environment like the jungles of 'Up,' this transfer treats Anderson's color choices with the utmost respect. Shadow delineation is revealing. Technical anomalies like source noise or artifacting are nowhere to be seen. Ever-so-slight banding occurs, but it's hardly noticeable and never detracts from the overall beauty of the transfer. This particular video presentation will delight fans and videophiles alike.
'Fantastic Mr. Fox's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track plays it a bit more subdued and never really bursts to life as you'd maybe expect with a film like this. The most important part of the film, the dialogue, is handled with care and is perfectly clear through the center channel. Directionality is nicely prioritized in the front channels when voices come from off screen characters. The jumping and jiving soundtrack is given ample room to realize its potential. Rear channels are oddly silent for the most part though, which was something I wasn't expecting at all. There are plenty of times – the flint mine, the three master plans, and the flaming pine cone war – where the surrounds could have been strenuously engaged. Instead the rear channels aren't nearly as perky as is expected, causing this audio presentation to fall ever so short of the near perfect video presentation.
- Making Mr. Fox Fantastic (HD, 45 min.) – This feature contains six separate featurettes, that can be played subsequently by selecting Play All, or separately by selecting the specific featurette from the menu.
"The Look of 'Fantastic Mr. Fox,'" talks about the origin of Roald Dahl's story, and how Anderson got involved in the film and information on the 120 different sets that were built for the film.
"From Script to Screen," talks about the children's story, and what a challenge it was to take a short book and turn it into a feature length film.
"The Puppet Makers," see how the puppets were made and the meticulous work that goes into making puppets for stop motion animation.
"Still Life (Puppet Animation)," covers the painstaking work that it takes to animate a stop motion feature length feature. Wes Anderson talks about how he liked how the fur moved on the stop motion animation from 'King Kong,' and how that influenced the movie.
"The Cast," gives us a look at the famous names involved with the voices of the characters like Meryl Streep and George Clooney.
"Bill and His Badger," is definitely the most enjoyable segment of the bunch just because we get a good seven minutes one-on-one with Bill Murray talking about his role as Badger and visiting some of the stop motion animators.
- A Beginner's Guide to Whack-Bat (HD, 1 min) – What was the most promising special feature of this disc turned out to be quite a disappointment. The opportunity to give an in depth, humorous explanation of Whack-Bat is kind of squandered with an explanation that isn't much more than the one given in the film.
- 'Fantastic Mr. Fox': The World of Roald Dahl (HD, 3 min) – Roald Dahl's widow and Wes Anderson talk about the original inspiration for the film. Dahl's love of the English Countryside was one of Anderson's inspirations for the setting of the film.
- Trailers (HD, 2 min) – The theatrical trailer is included. Pre-menu trailers include the theatrical trailer for 'Date Night,' and the Blu-ray trailers for 'Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel,' 'Marley & Me: The Terrible Two's.'
There are no HD exclusives.
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Wes Anderson has taken Roald Dahl's imaginative children's book and created a film with wit, creativity, and a look that's decidedly Anderson-esque. This isn't strictly an animated film for children though, not because it contains questionable material, but just because they might not get it. This is animated film meant for adults. The video and audio presentations perfectly complement the film. While the special features are somewhat lacking, specifically no audio commentary, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' on Blu-ray comes highly recommended.
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