Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Chase Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker, Wes Anderson, Karen Duffy, Robin Hurlstone, Hugo Guinness, Helen McCrory, Roman Coppola, Brian Cox, Adrien Brody
Written by: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, based on a novel by Roald Dahl
Directed by: Wes Anderson
MPAA Rating: PG for action, smoking and slang humor
Running Time: 87
Date: 10/14/2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tails from the Woods

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Wes Anderson should have made an animated film a long time ago. As his live-action films grow more interior and decorated and precious, it only makes sense to do away with flesh altogether. The leap turns out to be a good one as Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach adapt Roald Dahl's 1970 book, but with a generous helping of Anderson's quirky wit and a few other personal touches.

George Clooney provides the voice of Mr. Fox, who longs to be a thief but writes a newspaper column to satisfy his wife (voiced by Meryl Streep). They have a peculiar son, Ash (voiced by Jason Schwartzman), whose displacement in the world is only magnified by the arrival of cousin Kristofferson (voiced by Wes's brother Eric Anderson), a soft-spoken, confident, natural athlete.

Mr. Fox decides to make one more big haul before quitting stealing for good; he is going to hit the three nearby farms owned by three wealthy and nasty farmers, Boggis (voiced by Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (voiced by Hugo Guinness) and Bean (voiced by Michael Gambon). Unfortunately, in doing so, he starts a war with the farmers, endangering his own life as well as those of his family and friends (and his tail).

Anderson employs traditional stop-motion animation, combined with his trademark, gorgeously detailed, wide, static shots, and though the effect isn't groundbreaking, it's refreshingly charming and funny instead (the technique doesn't call attention to itself, but rather serves the story).

Best of all is the unique, offbeat language spoken by all the characters, each savoring the rhythm of their words. But no one savors more than Clooney, who really sinks his teeth into his role. As with all of Dahl's work, this one can get pretty dark, and parents should take children at their own risk.

Bill Murray co-stars as a Badger lawyer, Willem Dafoe plays a guard rat, and Owen Wilson is the coach of a ridiculously complicated fox sport.

Blu-Ray Details: Wes Anderson's films usually get the supreme treatment by the Criterion Collection, but this release from Fox is fairly straightforward. It's a three-disc set with a regular DVD and a digital copy, but all the extras are on the Blu-Ray disc. It comes with several little making-of featurettes, which can be played together as a 45-minute, hi-def documentary. Anderson is interviewed, along with Dahl's widow. There's a short, separate featurette about Dahl's house, one about "Whack-Bat," and a trailer. The picture and sound quality are extraordinary.

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