“Fantastic Mr. Fox” whimsically captures the fall aesthetic
As the midpoint of fall approaches, the urge for seasonal movies only grows. Wes Anderson’s 2009 stop-motion comedy “Fantastic Mr. Fox” satisfies that appetite with its rich color palette. The animated feature turns out to be a beloved family film with enough charm for all ages. Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in 2010, the art-driven story unfolds with a star-studded cast of characters and a storyboard of engaging visuals.
Based on Roald Dahl’s novel of the same name, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” tells the story of former thief and current columnist Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his ambition to be the greatest. Unable to restrain himself, he falls back into his old job through a series of thefts from the three neighboring farm monopolies, disrupting the wishes of Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) and the safety of her neighborhood.
Known for his use of visual symmetry and direct exposure, Anderson illustrates yet another world of storytelling with this film. His precise and distinct style shines through in the film as even the slightest movement of the camera feels highly intentional and necessary to the narrative. Anderson’s directing holds the audience exactly where they want them, as it shows them what to see and what to feel. Its screenplay, co-written by Noah Baumbach, is both playful and insightful.
The storyline establishes a multidimensional narrative with more than it looks. It seems like a children’s story at first glance, but slowly unfolds to reveal an appeal to adults as well, with hidden and suggestive jokes built into the script. Swear words are cleverly replaced with the word “cuss,” keeping the intent while simply censoring the content for younger, oblivious viewers. The brainy humor in the movie may go unnoticed to kids, but the brainy humor is where they can find their laughs.
Each of Anderson’s films has a distinct color palette that’s hard to ignore. Whether it’s pastels or muted browns, every scene is painted with undertones to guide the tone and mood of the film. “Fantastic Mr. Fox” takes Anderson’s colorful trend to a new level, as there is no frame in the film that lacks the color orange.
It does not go unnoticed that the entire story takes place during the harvest season. Each scene is highly focused with orange sun rays and a constantly yellow sky. The hills and valleys are made up of patchworks of amber and apricot reminiscent of an autumn setting. Between auburn fox fur and corduroy costumes, each character is added to the mosaic of a dreamlike autumnal landscape in the countryside.
The film’s central conflict – Mr. Fox juggling his own ambition and responsibilities – teaches lessons that have prevailed among many generations. He grapples with the dangers of going over your head to prove that you are worthy instead of having confidence in yourself.
The film focuses on the issues that come with comparing yourself to others and, in turn, not embracing your own abilities. It proves that any person can become a vital asset to a team when they tap into their unique talents for the betterment of the group. Instead of worrying about judgment or failure, the film emphasizes the importance of finding the good of being different and the light even in the darkest of circumstances.
There is an adorable quality about this film that contains warmth and wisdom although it caters to a younger audience than Anderson’s other films. It’s a refreshing and smart watch that has something for everyone in its 1.5 hour battery life. Story, visuals and message come together to evolve “Fantastic Mr. Fox” into a surprisingly complex film about identity, family and perseverance.