Fantastic Mr. Fox

I've never been a huge fan of Wes Anderson's films: the more formalistic and stylized they got, the less they interested me. But I do enjoy stop-motion animation, and it turns out to be a good fit for Anderson's OCD visual style, where he can finally have his characters do exactly as he pleases, because they are literally puppets; in a sense, Anderson is just taking a lo-fi approach to a trend already embraced by fellow control freak directors Robert Zemeckis, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron: replacing unpredictable human actors with easily manipulated CG models.

Regardless, since we allow these animated figures a bit more silliness than we would endure from flesh-and-blood performers, the slapstick antics in Fantastic Mr. Fox – and there are many – are infinitely more charming than the lame exploits in Anderson's The Life Aquatic, the film that really turned me off of his work. (I didn't even bother seeing The Darjeeling Limited.)

This movie retains Anderson's dry wit (with substantial help from frequent cowriter Noah Baumbach) and quirkiness, but is far more lively and cohesive than his last few films. Part of this could be that, instead of writing an original screenplay, he is working off a classic children's story by Roald Dahl. (Reportedly, Anderson took inspiration for this film's production design from the late Dahl's actual house.)

All in all, this simple story about the titular fox (well-voiced by George Clooney) who starts a war with three nasty human farmers after a few clever heists is clever, funny, and altogether satisfying. (Of special note is Alexandre Desplat's whimsical score.) It really is, as one critic has said, a toy box of a movie. Children will enjoy it while their hipster parents nod agreeably at the wry dialogue. I had a good time myself.