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Release Date: February 18th, 2014 Movie Release Year: 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox (Criterion)

Overview -

Fantastic Mr. Fox is the story of a clever, quick, nimble, and exceptionally well-dressed wild animal. A compulsive chicken thief turned newspaper reporter, Mr. Fox settles down with his family at a new foxhole in a beautiful tree directly adjacent to three enormous poultry farms—owned by three ferociously vicious farmers: Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Mr. Fox simply cannot resist. This adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's novel from Wes Anderson is a meticulous work of stop-motion animation featuring vibrant performances by George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, and Bill Murray.

OVERALL:
Must Own
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
New digital master approved by director Wes Anderson,
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p/AVC MPEG-4
Length:
87
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.85:1
Audio Formats:
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Special Features:
Audio recording of author Roald Dahl reading the book on which the film is based
Release Date:
February 18th, 2014

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

Wes Anderson has proven over the years that he is one of the most stylistic directors working today. His stories blend in well with the surroundings he creates, which gives us a very unique image on-screen. There really is nothing like it. Even though his films take place in 'the real world', they always seem to have a fantastic and whimsical sense to them. And Anderson is one of the few filmmakers whose list of movies has not worsened over time.

This is a quality shown in the works of tons of directors whose first movies tend to lead the way for the future of filmmaking, and even show us something original and different. More often than not, those same directors tend to make films later in their years that are universally panned by critics and audiences and offer no sense of what that director once was. I could name names, but I'm sure you already have a list in your head. Anderson on the other hand has not fallen victim to this rule, as each of his films still packs a powerful and comedic punch.

His attention to detail in his characters, sets, and music has not fallen by the way-side and he and his films continue to make us think while they entertain us. Not to mention, they us some of the most iconic characters of modern times. And what better story to adapt into a feature film to showcase all of Anderson's talent than Roald Dahl's 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'. This story gave Anderson the means to hone in on his impeccable ability to give us something fresh and original, while keeping the unique style that we have seen in his previous films. He has packed this stop-motion animated film with an award-winning cast, great music, and a stellar stop-motion department.

Mr. Fox (George Clooney) has recently taken up a job as a newspaper man to support his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) and teenage son Ash (Jason Shwartzman) in lieu of succumbing to his more animalistic urges of killing livestock and stealing cider. In fact, Mr. Fox has purchased an expensive piece of real estate on top of a hill so that he can look out over the chicken and cider farms of the mean and dreaded Boggis, Bunce, and Bean (Michael Gambon), the three farmers he intends of ripping off.

He enlists the help of a loyal opossum named Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky). Going against the advice of his badger lawyer (Bill Murray), he embarks on an epic scheme and plan to steal every chicken and bottle of cider for his family and friends. Meanwhile, Mr. Fox's teenage nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) has Ash competing for his father's love and admiration. It would seem that Mr. Fox is in over his head as he gets everyone one of his friends and family members into some serious and dire consequences, whether it be from a flood or a rabid dog that has an appetite for rodents and foxes, his plan affects everyone.

But there is something that Clooney adds to Mr. Fox that makes him fantastic. And that's despite his own barbaric ways and madness, he still possesses and element of calm and cool to assure us that everything is going to be alright in the end. Anderson sticks closely to Dahl's story, but also adds his own touch with some witty and dry dialogue that has come to be the staple in Anderson's films. And despite this being Anderson's first PG film, and made for the whole family, he has added some very adult moments.

The humor is spot on, whether it's seeing Mr. Fox and his family scarf down a meal instantly, elegantly smoking cigarettes, or the characters cussing at each other by actually using the word "cuss" rather than any other swear word. It works on all levels. The stop-motion animation is fluid and smooth and adds tons of depth that even some live-action movies don't. 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is a beautiful movie to look at, one we can enjoy for many years to come with some excellent voice acting, and one hell of a tale.

Video Review

Ranking:

'Fantastic Mr. Fox' comes with an impressive 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, courtesy of Criterion. Wes Anderson personally supervised this transfer, which was shot on Nikon D3 cameras. The final color-corrected images were converted to high-definition for this release. Basically, the picture is incredible. The detail is very sharp, as you can see each individual hair on each animal's head and bodies. You can see the small individual stitching in the clothes too, no matter what action is happening on screen.

The depth is simply amazing, as each set was physically created, and each detail, no matter how small, has the full attention of the crew, no matter if it was rust on a sign , or a crack in an old building, you will be able to see it on this image. The colors are beautiful and simply pop off the screen. There are tons of earthy and warm colors throughout. The browns, yellows, and oranges look amazing with some great blues, reds, and greens. There is a heart-warming children's tale look to all of it. The black levels are deep and inky here as well. The image is well-balanced and free of any problems of issues. This is a top notch video presentation.

Audio Review

Ranking:

This release comes with an amazing lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand. You can easily hear the distinct animal sounds each actor makes with a crisp and clear sound, as it blends in with their dialogue. The ambient noises and sound effects of the farms, underground tunnels, and schoolyard sound impressive and pour from the surrounds.

There is some great directionality throughout the film, with each noise being well-balanced and appealing. The score and music choice really energize this film and sound great without drowning out any of the dialogue or sound effects. The bass kicks in in the bigger action sequences tastefully with a very wide dynamic range. There were no pops, cracks, or hissing to note here.

Special Features

Ranking:
  • Audio Commentary - This commentary was recorded in 2013 with Wes Anderson, and he provides a great commentary that goes into the amount of work that as done to make each shot of the film. He also talks about his stylistic choices, how they recorded the dialogue, his influences, and some on-set stories. He even references 'Magnum P.I. as one of his influences, which made me laugh. This commentary is definitely worth listening to.
  • Introduction (HD, 2 mins) - Here is a stop-motion animated intro by Petey (Jarvis Cocker), who presents us with the world of 'Fantastic Mr. Fox', and what we can expect.
  • Animatic (HD, 76 mins) - You can watch the entire film in storyboard mode with this extra.
  • The Making of 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' (HD, 32 mins) - Here is an extra separated into seven segments. They cover everything from how they recorded the voices and sound effects, which we see the actors actually out on a farm digging holes, and literally acting out their movements to get their sound. We see early puppet tests and the different sizes they made for each puppet, as well as the music of the film, the inspirations for the sets, a studio visit, and more. This is a must-watch.
  • Publicity Featurettes (HD, 32 mins) - Here we have six separate extras that have interviews with the cast and crew, more information on the set design of the film, and the origins of the book. We even get to see Bill Murray visit the art department and meet his character. A must-see.
  • Fantastic Mr. Dahl (HD, 62 mins) - Here is a BBC documentary on the life of Roald Dahl that coincides the the Dahl museum opening. There are plenty of interviews with Dahl's family and friends as well as some vintage interviews with Dahl himself.
  • Roald Dahl Reads 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' (HD, 54 mins) - Exactly what it says. This is an audio recording of Dahl reading his book. Pretty amazing.
  • Awards Speeches (HD, 4 mins) - Here we see the stop-motion animation awards speeches made for some awards ceremonies.
  • Discussion and Analysis (HD, 12 mins) - Here is a weird extras that has Jake Ryan and Jeremy Logan, two small children talking to a camera, similar to Siskel and Ebert on how amazing the film is.
  • Witch's Tree (SD, 2 mins) - Here is a cool, yet creepy extra that has Dahl sitting high up in a tree and talking to us about how he came up with 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'.
  • Sony Robot Commercial (HD, 1 min) - This must be a commercial that was made for Sony that has the same stop-motion animation that was done in the film.
  • Set Photography By Ray Lewis - Here are 50 images that show some fun on-set work and production.
  • Dahl's Manuscripts - Here we have 18 pages of Dahl's first ideas and pages of 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' along with some letters to and from his editors.
  • Criterion Booklet - Here we have an illustrated 33-page booklet that has credits, character drawings, and essays from Anderson and Erica Wagner.

Criterion has knocked it out of the park, yet again with 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'. The film itself is fun to watch over and over again with great characters, witty dialogue, and a highly entertaining story. It's evident that Wes Anderson was the perfect person to adapt this great work from Roald Dahl. The video and audio presentations are top notch, with some truly incredible extras. This is a must-own.