Monday, November 30, 2009

'Mr. Fox' - as sly as he wants to be

Fantastic Mr. Fox
3 1/2 Stars

By Joe Maniscalco

Despite a slight, but significant, propensity for screwing up, Mr. Fox is as sly as they come.

Able to pilfer poultry out from under the collective noses of the richest and most powerful farmers in the neighborhood, Mr. Fox nevertheless lacks the good sense to know when to say when.

He is, even if he does favor tweed suit jackets, just a wild beast after all.

The eternal struggle between domesticity and freedom lies at the heart of Wes Anderson’s excellent animated feature, “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”Based on the classic children’s story by Roald Dahl (“Charlie & the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach”), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” eschews ubiquitous CGI with something really pioneering — old school stop-motion photography.

That decision, as well as the one to get rascally George Clooney to voice the title character, add up to one of those rare features that will not only entertain audiences of all ages today, but will continue to captivate families for years to come.

Make no mistake, scores of kids weened on war and disillusion today will grow up treasuring Anderson’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” as one of their unassailable childhood touchstones.

Funny, quirky and multi-dimensional, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” demands to be seen more than just once. Yeah, it’s that good.

You may only be spending an hour-and-a-half with a cast of talking woodland critters, but the stakes here are as high as they come. When the vengeful farmers decide to go for bear, spitting nails and rattlesnake venom, this reviewer experienced more real suspense than anything the hapless humans in “2012” could generate.

There’s a lot to absorb here in addition to the impending animal genocide.“Fantastic Mr. Fox” explores stuff like family dynamics, self-identity, survival and, yes, happiness, all in a truly inspired and artful way.

There’s that, and just the fun of trying to figure out which of the animals Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe are voicing.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is rated PG. Runtime 1 hour, 27 minutes. Starring George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray.

Playing in Brooklyn at the Access Digital Theatres - Pavilion Cinema in Park Slope, Cobble Hill Cinemas, UA Sheepshead Bay 14, and Bay Ridge Alpine Cinemas.


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