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Review: Fantastic Mr. Fox

There are many criticisms towards Wes Anderson as a director and his films, mainly, that they are pretty to look at but do not have much beneath the surface. The criticism that Anderson's film are hollow is an easy one to make, but a faulty one. If you do not see anything beneath the surface, it's because you are not looking.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is like many of Anderson's past endeavors: The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited, another tale of a group of misfits centered around the importance of family and what you will do to protect them.

Mr. Fox is fantastic, as are his wife and his children, but being fantastic sometimes isn't enough. Tired of the inertia of daily life, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) steals from the top three farmers in the area in an effort to reclaim some of that, "pure wild animal craziness".

Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) is at a point in her life where she wants a responsible husband to take care of her and her children. She wants no part of his former coop-raiding days and seeks an end to all of his shenanigans. Unfortunately, Mr. Fox does not heed her advice and when Boggis, Bunce and Bean end up poorer for it, they launch an all-out war against Mr. Fox and his family.

George Clooney was perfect casting for Mr. Fox, the suave, sly and often persuasive head of the Fox family who realizing he is reaching up there in years decides to just be what he is - a wild animal. Uncharacteristic to most of Mr. Clooney's roles, however, is the emotional vulnerability he lends to Mr. Fox. Despite the smooth polished exterior he has created, Mr. Fox is not all that different from his introverted son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), he has failings.

Led by an excellent voice cast headed by Clooney, Streep, Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe and Bill Murray, each character is fleshed out effectively to avoid cardboard cutouts.

Wes Anderson's latest brings back some of the fun of Rushmore that The Darjeeling Limited lacked and it shows. The earth tones used to create the home of the characters evoke a warm, friendly feeling and ground the story in a way that sometimes The Life Aquatic did not. It really is a pleasure to see stop-motion animation revived and done so well.

Funny and warm, Fantastic Mr. Fox could pose a challenge to UP this year for best animated film. It's that good.

***/****

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