- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Based on the children’s book of the same name, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a wonderful stop-motion animated fable from the minds of director Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl, the late author of the original text.

Opening on Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) during a daring farmhouse raid gone awry, the film follows Mr. Fox’s failed efforts to go straight and the aftermath of a botched series of raids on the farms of Boggis, Bunce and Bean (one fat, one short, one lean, as the rhyme goes).

Mr. Fox also must re-connect with his awkward teenage son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman) - who feels ignored by his father after the arrival of his more athletic cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) - and prove to the rest of the animals imperiled by his raids that he can extricate them from the jam he has created.

The stop-motion animation that brings the picture to life is a real treat; the texture of the puppets and the imperfect nature of the medium give it a real-life heft that computer-generated technological marvels simply can’t match.

With “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” Wes Anderson has, for the first time, made a movie that isn’t based on an idea of his own. It’s a good move for the filmmaker, one that breathes some new, invigorating life into his work and enables him to slide out of the mild rut some thought he was experiencing.

“The Darjeeling Limited” was so similar in tone and feel to his previous films (especially his masterpiece, “The Royal Tenenbaums”) that some speculated that Mr. Anderson had crawled too far inside his own head to fully explore a cinematic landscape not of his own devising. By stepping outside his comfort zone, he reclaims the artistic initiative, proving that he is not a filmmaker to be underestimated.

That’s not to say that this isn’t a distinctively Andersonian film: From the look of the movie to the dialogue to the Futura font to the twee soundtrack, this is clearly a product of Mr. Anderson’s aesthetic. Those who doubt he could make a stop-motion film feel like one of his live-action features should prepare to be proved wrong.

This is the second children’s book brought to life by an auteur of the first order this year (the first being Spike Jonze’s adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are”) and it’s by far the more successful of the two. Like Mr. Jonze, Mr. Anderson had to stretch the material a little to make it fit a feature-length film.

Unlike Mr. Jonze, however, Mr. Anderson brings to his tale a natural whimsy perfectly suited to children’s literature. Whereas Mr. Jonze’s “wild things” were mopey hipsters, Mr. Anderson’s anthropomorphized animals come off as fascinatingly off-kilter. It’s a far more fulfilling take on a beloved children’s book.

TITLE: “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”

RATING: PG (action, smoking and slang humor)

CREDITS: Directed by Wes Anderson, written by Mr. Anderson and Noah Baumbach

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

WEB SITE: https://www. fantasticmrfoxmovie.com/

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