Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by:Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
Starring: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Michael Gambon, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Wallace Wolodarsky, Eric Chase Anderson
Released: January 1, 2010
Grade: A-

We’re off to a good start.  The first movie of 2010 is fantastic by name and fantastic by nature.  The characters are cute, the dialogue is witty and the storyline is fun.  Kids should find it entertaining but I think lovers of quality cinema are going to like it even more.

As a young ‘un, I read all of Roald Dahl’s novels.  He was “celebrity” to me and I can remember feeling really sad when he passed away in 1990 (I was 13 years of age at the time).  Many of Dahl’s works have been adapted for the big screen (including Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, James & The Giant Peach) but this one could be his best yet.

And the credit must go to the film’s director.  Wes Anderon’s quirky sense of humour has helped him develop a cult following in the movie world.  His credits include Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (all great films).  Determined to challenge himself once again, Anderson has used the painstakingly slow process of “stop animation” to bring Fantastic Mr. Fox to life.

Mr. Fox (Clooney) is a devious creature who lives with his wife (Streep) and son (Schwartzman) in a nice tree.  It’s a good life but Mr. Fox wants more – he has an insatiable thirst for risk and adventure.  With the help of his good friend, an opossum named Kylie (Wolodarsky), Mr. Fox tries to break into the neighbouring farms.  He wants to steal their tasty chickens and sweet apple cider.

Ah, but it’s not going to be that easy.  The humans haven’t taken too kindly to Mr. Fox’s activities and they’ll stop at nothing to catch him and his family.  They’ve brought in the bulldozers and an army of men.  Can this wily fox outsmart them all?

The best adjective I can think of to describe this movie is “cool”.  From the way he clicks his fingers to the way he wolfs down a meal, Mr. Fox is the epitome of sophistication.  Yes, he has his flaws but the deep voice of George Clooney turns him into a smooth, loveable character.  All the voices are great for that matter.  I really liked the interaction between Mr. Fox’s son (voiced by Jason Schwartzman) and nephew (voiced by Eric Chase Anderson).  Let’s not forget the soundtrack which I must soon add to my collection.

The film clocks in at just under an hour and half but it look a long time for Anderson to perfect.  One particular shot, which lasts just 90 seconds, was so complex that it took nine weeks of actual animation.  You don’t often appreciate those details when you’re sitting in a movie theatre munching on a bucket of popcorn.  So much work goes on behind the scenes.

Up is the frontrunner to win the best animated film Oscar in two months time and whilst it’s a very good film in its own right, my personal preference is to see Wes Anderson on stage accepting the prize for Fantastic Mr. Fox.  It’s an acceptance speech I’d like to hear.