Yesterday I saw Wes Anderson’s new film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, with some friends. I’ve long harbored the usual discomforts about Anderson’s work: too stylized, too “twee,” addicted to sentiment and yet prone to cheat by holding it slightly away with a patina of irony, obsessed with the boring inner lives of wealthy-ish people, overly reliant on soundtracks for emotional push. But it turns out some of these habits–especially the formal, stylistic ones–are well-suited to an adaptation of one of the best childrens’ novels of the past century.
Like the original Dahl text, Anderson’s Mr. Fox is a lush, sweet-tempered, comic, and more than slightly eerie work; it will probably remind you of other stories that hover between childhood wonder and adult anxiety (e.g. Jim Henson movies, the Narnia books, William Blake’s short poems). Above all it is a moral tale, about family, friendships, the nature of resentment and revenge. Anderson’s previous work also deals with those themes, but Mr. Fox seems more comfortable with and honest about them.
If you can pry yourself away from your video phone, go see it. And if you have any offspring and can also separate them from whatever digital entertainment, bring them along. Although they probably won’t “get it,” they will delight in things like the expression on a half-sentient opposum’s face and the texture of Mr. Fox’s corduroy suit and every color in the whole movie.