Fantastic Mr. Fox
PG
Entertainment: +3
Acceptability: +2

Voices of: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman. Animation. Written by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, based on the book by Roald Dahl. Directed by Wes Anderson.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Based on the beloved story by Roald Dahl, the film tells the tale of a fox who becomes domesticated when his wife has a cub. But the fox can’t completely tame his ways. Soon he uses his wits and cunning to outfox three dimwitted farmers. His plot becomes much like one hatched by members of Ocean’s 11, as he sets out to steal the farm goods – chickens and hard cider. But this angers the farmers and soon Mr. Fox and friends must try to outwit their would-be killers.

PREVIEW REVIEW: I’d like to say it’s “pitch perfect” because the lead character uses that phrase after enjoying the efforts of others, and after all, it is from Roald Dahl, a master of macabre, edgy storytelling. The voices are indeed pitch perfect, the story involving, and the quirky animation is eye-fetching, but something is off. Though it’s hard to say exactly what, there is a darkness about the premise as the fox struggles with being a good husband and father and facing his true nature. There’s a parable, no doubt, but what is it? On one hand, the storytellers want us to rise above our nature, be a better us, while at the same time they praise the rebel who goes against the status quo.

At times it is about father and son relationships, at others about accepting responsibility. But it also wants to be an action/adventure chase film. It’s more Tim Burton than Walt Disney, the tone being a tinge darker than most animation parents gleefully take the little ones to. Still, everyone involved has done good work. This indeed has been a great year for animated movies.

The film reminded me of a better one – Chicken Run. This claymation comedy, set at a chicken farm where a flock of hens are determined to fly the coop before meeting a fowl fate, came from the people who gave us the Wallace and Gromit shorts. When a rooster, shot from a circus cannon, sails over the fence of a Stalag 17-like egg hatchery, the hens believe he can fly. Not wanting to go back to the circus, the rooster makes a deal. If they hide him, he will teach the chicks to fly. Of course, as we all know, don’t we, chickens can’t fly. But something better happen quickly, for the owner is determined to turn the egg farm into a death camp. With enough visually going on to keep little ones enthralled, it also contains sly, pun-riddled humor to keep the most anti-animation adult amused. And let’s not forget the sight gags. Picture a rooster in solitary, ala Steve McQueen’s Cooler Joe in The Great Escape. The expressive faces (chickens with teeth – is that great?), the pacing, adventure and witty dialogue make for a fun family movie outing.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Summary
Crude Language: A couple of muted crude remarks.
Obscene Language: Rather than swearing, Mr. Fox always replaces an obscenity by actually saying “curse” as in, “What the curse is he doing?” Try explaining that one to the little ones.
Profanity: None
Violence: Lots of chases; Mr. Fox has his tale shot off; the forest critters are hunted by the mean old farmers; you see the farmers don’t want the foxes and other animals eating their chickens.
Sexual Intercourse: None
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Surprisingly, there’s a lot of drinking, as one farmer turns his apples into hard cider and that’s all he consumes; the animals celebrate their victories with lots of alcohol and toasting; the meanest farmer smokes.
Other: None
Running Time: 87 minutes
Intended Audience: Family, kids over 7.

Copyright Preview Family Movie Review (www.previeoOnline.org)