Survival in film is often presented to audiences as a human struggle. One that people like you or me can relate to or find hobbies and interests to revel in. Anthropomorphic components to foxes, badgers and rats are the comfortably strange middle ground between exceptional stories and cutesy cannon fodder. Such is the appeal of Fantastic Mr. Fox and the craft Wes Anderson presents. Conjuring up the emotive, colourful flair for writing Roald Dahl had, Anderson works tirelessly to bring it to the big screen in all of its animated glory. His first foray into animation is an interesting piece, not just because it is engrossing to see how his directing style stays the same in stop motion as it does in live-action, but also to see how the film fares over a decade later.
Upon returning to the golden fields and flowery world Anderson has conjured here, it is all a bit too sweet to enjoy. A spark has been lost. Its quirks and issues of abandonment worn so clearly and opaquely. Some of it works, and the performances are good, but the message is one of intrinsic simplicity and goes nowhere unexpected. There is comfort in the clarity. Not much, but it is there. Merits are to be found in the crisp wordplay, with more than a few lines of dialogue working exceptionally well as throwaway jokes. A convincing lead from George Clooney is good enough, but the intricacies of his character are absent, replaced instead by quips and constant clicks of the mouth. One key to all of this is that it is simply amicable, rather than boundary-pushing.
It is not a problem, not too big a one anyway. With the sheer amount of characters on display, it is difficult for them to amount to anything more than accessible and basic. They quip and gel with each other well enough, but never get to the grander scope found in the live-action iterations of the Anderson craft. His dialogue is not wasted on these moments, but it does not come through as good as it should. Style can only carry a film so far, and while it does much of the heavy lifting throughout Fantastic Mr. Fox, there isn’t too much it can offer outside of good-looking scenes. Experimenting with a new medium is no small feat, and for Anderson to endure this is rewarding, but not as great as it should have been.
Fantastic Mr. Fox comes together well. Anderson and Dahl slot together so easily, they are a match made in heaven, indeed. But the struggle to differentiate this and the other cavalcade of Anderson classics is rather difficult. A nice enough animation style that, while impressive, does not offer anything larger or more interesting than the usual, familiar struggles of supporting characters and impressive ensembles. It is a film that takes some time to warm to, and once you do, it is a rewarding and comfortable experience. Hell, anything that has Jarvis Cocker rattling away on an acoustic guitar around a campfire is sure to be at least a bit of fun.