So I just watched The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I'm a bit nonplussed at just how to describe it to you all.
The plot itself is simple: Mr. Fox (superbly voiced by George Clooney) has a tendency not to listen to advice and go his own way, and he draws his family and his friends into his adventures right along with him.
In his own way, though, as his wife (Meryl Streep and clearly the brains of the operation) says, Fox is fantastic.
But also frustrating.
Though usually I'm all for non-conformity, Fox's stubbornness annoyed me with its selfishness at times. I felt for his long-suffering wife keenly.
Ash, Mr. Fox's son, is the more intriguing character, at least in my opinion. An angsty, sardonic teenager (I think; not sure how those fox years work), Ash is a mystery to his father, whom he longs to impress. Yet in his cape and pajamas, Ash too marches to the tune of a different drummer himself.
Also a standout is Kristofferson, the cousin who comes to visit and who, much to Ash's chagrin, seems to excel in everything Ash does not. Kristofferson meditates, is a natural athlete like Ash's Dad, and even a master of martial arts. Plus, the girl Ash likes the most is immediately drawn to the much cooler cousin.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox on film, of course, owes much of its allure, and its mystery, to the original story by author Roald Dahl, who also penned Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Which might help to explain why I am at a loss as to the perfect audience for the film: Dahl's works can suffer in translation. While I loved the original Gene Wilder version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for instance, the Johnny Depp adaptation left me cold with its bright orange oompa loompas and decidedly creepy Willy Wonka.
Thankfully, Tim Burton had nothing to do with The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I think that, in this case, the film makers did an impressive job of nailing both Dahl's sophisticated humor and childlike wonder.
Still, I'm not sure who the film was targeted to in theaters. Adults could easily be put off by the stop-motion animation, seeing this as a "kids' film," yet the sly and ironic humor would just go over the heads of young children.
Now on Blu-Ray and DVD, though, The Fantastic Mr. Fox definitely worth the rental. See it with your pre-teens or teenagers, who may well identify with the mixed-up Ash and enjoy the rivalry with the perfectly easy-going Kristofferson, who does not even realize they are competing.
I received a copy of The Fantastic Mr. Fox on DVD to facilitate this review.