Retro styles consistently re-emerge in fashion. Maybe it is an excuse for unimaginative ideas or a desire to recreate ideas and looks of the past. I’d like to think that in most cases it relates to the latter. Wes Anderson’s new film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, completely fulfills the resurfacing of retro. Not only is it an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story, it adheres to the specific time and place of the original work. Moreover, Anderson embraces the antiquated stop-motion animation of the same era and in the process creates a familiar, but exceedingly clever way of storytelling for both adults and children alike.
Mr. Fox is both cunning and charming, stealing chickens from local farmers in order to provide for his family. There is no such thing as risks, only calculated master plans. The audience takes pleasure in watching Fox as a young married chap, running the countryside, fulfilling his thrills. Yet, every young adult must grow up, especially if your career puts your growing family in harms way. Flash-forward a few fox years and see a devoted Fox family dealing with familiar issues such as finances, teenage angst and the housing market. The film is so dazzlingly impressive with stop-motion action, the fact that animals are wearing suits and holding office jobs only enhances the whimsical value of the story. Eventually, Mr. Fox, brilliantly voiced by George Clooney, decides to take on one last adventure with the help of a few local animal residents. However, when things go awry and the farmers are out for revenge, Mr. Fox may have sacrificed the entire community of wild animals.
The film begins in accordance with Dahl’s original work, but quickly and skillfully moves into Anderson territory. Anderson co-wrote the film with Noah Baumbach, his writing partner on 2004’s Life Aquatic, resulting in the colorful wit and dry humor audiences have come to recognize in his previous films. The dialogue is simultaneously basic and engaging, not only emphasizing the auteur of Anderson, but also reflecting the family-friendly writing of popular feature animation. Fantastic Mr. Fox is pure eye candy; the film unveils so many visual layers like watching an origami master fool you with a simple piece of paper. Although, the actual dialogue may be much more adult oriented than other animation, the natural splendor of the aesthetic is mesmerizing.
By using the stop-motion animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox, becomes a quirky film for adults and a visual stimulation for all. The world is engrossing and believable, taking any viewer on a leisurely ride down memory lane. Beyond the gorgeous stylized mod-look, the film is perfectly voiced with Anderson regulars including Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. Meryl Streep also takes counterpart control as Mr. Fox’s wife. The film is devotedly retro, bursting with details in an ingenious recreation of a classic tale and by no means a stale reproduction of any style. Take the family. Take a date. Just make sure you don’t miss this original film.