Friday, February 12, 2010

Film #5 of 2010

Title: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Year: 2009

A co-worker, speaking of George Clooney's performance in Up in the Air, which I haven't yet seen, observed that Clooney is really good at playing "the heartless bastard that doesn't care about anyone." Now, that may be an exaggeration, but there's certainly something to be said for Clooney's ability to nail characters who are supremely self-interested and, more often than not, sly and a little slimy. Something about that sideways, almost clucking motion of the head methinks.

Why is this relevant in Wes Anderson's latest offering, which is also his first stop-motion flick? Clooney voice-acts the titular Fox, and of course he's sly and a little slimy. The voice-to-character match is almost too good; though it's a short film, populated with many well-crafted, idiosyncratic (and sometimes post-modernly over-affected characters), Fox's dialogue and actions tend to dominate the increasingly frantic proceedings. After a while his pat answers, smooth improvisations and endless "charm" border on the overbearing. Border, but don't become it. There's a lot of other voice talent at work too, including Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray.

I haven't read Roald Dahl's source book, but from what I remember of Dahl's tales, this take probably preserves the spirit of the original, though it achieves its intent through a much more contemporary and offbeat tone. The theme of class consciousness, for instance, is still certainly there, and if you watch the first video below you'll get a sense of the extraordinary lengths the film-makers went to capture the spirit of Dahl.

The pairing of writer and director ultimately works well. And of course A Desplat's memorable, distinctive score is up for a well-deserved Oscar.

Here's some behind the scenes stuff:

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