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03 June 2023

Is the screenplay truly fantastic?


By Damon Smith

Treated painstakingly through stop-motion animation, Fantastic Mr Fox is a visual triumph, featuring the voices of Hollywood heavyweights such as George Clooney and Meryl Streep.

Here, Mr Fox (voiced by Clooney) is always looking to move up in the world with his long-suffering wife, Mrs Fox (Streep). He plots a raid on the chicken coop, only to get caught in a trap, and makes a promise to his spouse to give up his larcenous ways.

Two years later, Mr Fox has followed his wife's dictate and is the breadwinner for his family, including a disgruntled son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and a golden boy nephew, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson).

However, Mr Fox cannot completely shy away from his animal instincts, and he turns to stealing from farmers Bunce (Hugo Guinness), Bean (Michael Gambon) and Boggis (Brian Cox), roping in Kristofferson to his hare-brained schemes. Having been humiliated by the fox, the trio lays siege to the trees where the family resides and opens fire on Mr Fox, shooting off his bushy tail. Luckily, neighbouring critters including Badger (Bill Murray) rally around Mr Fox in his hour of need to help him elude the pursuers.

Unfortunately, Fantastic Mr Fox is let down by a screenplay that doesn't know to which audience it is trying to appeal. The articulated characters have plenty of personality, and there are some neat flourishes. The climactic escape is mind-boggling, leading to a cute gag reminiscent of Wallace and Gromit.

Hip indie director Wes Anderson imprints his personality so indelibly on the script, co-written by Noah Baumbach, that it's hard to see children enjoying the film. The simplicity and sweetness of the original story, with illustrations from Quentin Blake, is almost entirely lost.

DVD extras include The Making Of Fantastic Mr Fox, various featurettes (The Look Of Fantastic Mr Fox, and The Cast), as well as A Beginner's Guide To Whack-Bat.


Out now from Dh120


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