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The Captive
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday, November 23, 2014 - Edition No 924 

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FANTASTIC MR. FOX

SYNOPSIS:
Mr. Fox (voice of George Clooney) has a natural talent for getting out of scrapes in pursuit of chicken stealing - although after a near-miss some years earlier when Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) announced she was pregnant, he had vowed to stop living dangerously. But surrounded by temptation - a chicken farm, a squab farm and a cider distillery - he again succumbs to the thrill of the chase - and gets his family and some of their neighbouring wildlife, into heaps of trouble. The farmers, led by Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) decide to put an end to him once and for all.

Review by Louise Keller:
It short, it's fantastic. At 87 delightful, subversive and hilarious minutes, there's so much attitude in this stop-motion puppet fantasy, the hearts of children and adults alike will soar to the heavens. The combination of Roald Dahl's wonderful novel, Wes Anderson's distinctive offbeat humour and the inspired casting of George Clooney (a la Danny Ocean) as the irresistibly suave but sly Mr. Fox, who can't deny his wild instincts, is something no-one should miss.

When we first meet Clooney's well-dressed russet fox with a splendid bushy tail under an impressive large tree doing his exercises (and munching an apple) to the strains of Davy Crockett, we can see he is a fox with style. Next, there's a chicken-stealing ruse-gone-wrong with his beloved Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), before Mr. Fox embarks on a new career (as columnist for the local Gazette) and enters the real estate market (purchasing beyond his means, the hollow inside of that impressive tree), even though his Badger attorney (Bill Murray) advises him otherwise.

Then there is that one last job ('how can a fox ever be happy without a chicken in its teeth?') raiding the farms of the ultra mean, short, fat and lean farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. The toothy psychotic security rat guarding the alcoholic cider that tastes like pure melted gold is a wonderful creation, voiced by Willem Dafoe. Oh, and there's a lot of digging and eyes glazing over.

The enchantment of this reality is the incongruous community of animals, who wear regular clothes, play with toy trains, read books, use a Titanium American Express Card and celebrate occasions with faux Dom Perignon. It's a heist movie, a romance, an escape drama, a buddy movie, a story about fathers and sons and about being different. I would love to go into great detail about what happens and how, but suffice to say things don't go all right, requiring Mr. Fox uses his wiles and natural instincts to rally the troops, making full use of their natural talents. A knockout.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Imagined with large doses of wit and brio, Roald Dahl's children's story is a larger than life fantasy for all ages, brilliantly adapted to the screen and showcasing the voice talents of a pack of stars, led by George Clooney as the likeably roguish Mr. Fox, with the whistle & finger-clicking trademark. Like most animal characters in fiction, he has recognisably human traits ... and failings. Meryl Streep voices Mrs. Fox in a perfectly pitched blend of loving wife and knowing woman and the entire supporting cast is spot on. Bill Murray endears us to the badger, while Willem Dafoe does a dirty rat on security duty for the farmers.

The story is simple but not simplistic, a matter of survival for the Fox family. Feeling poor in their 'basement' hovel, Mr. Fox buys a magnificent tree to live in - right bang opposite the three farms of Bean, Boggis and Bounce. He quickly devises a plan to help himself to their wares. Meanwhile, nephew Kristofferson (Eric Cashe Anderson) turns up while his dad is in hospital, a smart, martial arts sort of kid who immediately gets up the nose of the Fox's youngster, Ash (Owen Wilson). Ash has self image problems ... this element is nicely rolled into a gentle father/son subplot with a satisfying resolution. The screenplay also takes pleasure in building sympathy for the animals and making the farmers the baddies - a subtle reminder to children (and adults) to stop and take a different point of view of animals often portrayed as nasty.

The film plays like an adventure, but Wes Anderson has ensured there is enough attention to character and to detail to make it all absolutely absorbing and entertaining - more so than many films made for adults. The puppetry is superb, the settings are interesting and the humour is infectious. While the animals generally behave and think much like humans, they are proudly wild animals - and eat like them, to hilarious effect.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

FANTASTIC MR. FOX (PG)
(US, 2009)

VOICES: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Wally Wolodarsky, Eric Anderson, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jarvis Cocker, Wes Anderson, Brian Cox, Adrien Brody

PRODUCER: Wes Anderson, Allison Abbate, Jeremy Dawson, Scott Rudin

DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson

SCRIPT: Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach (novel by Roald Dahl)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Oliver

EDITOR: Andrew Weisblum

MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Nelson Lowry

RUNNING TIME: 87 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 1, 2010







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