Thanksgiving Review: “Fantastic Mr. Fox”



“Fantastic Mr. Fox,” directed by Wes Anderson, was released in 2009 and stars George Clooney.

Avery James Lester, Staff Writer

Picture a place where the rich autumn colors fill the landscape – a world where all the animals in the woods have the ability to talk and form their own society. Imagine a place where three of the most despicable, nastiest, rotten and evil farmers live side by side. Now imagine a fox, his wife, sons, friends and their fight for survival. One of the rarest things movies can do is transport us to different worlds. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you are in for such a treat.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox,” directed by the divine Wes Anderson, miraculously accomplishes that. It was released in 2009 to extremely disappointing ticket sales. However, throughout the years, it has garnered a cult status as one of the finest examples of modern stop-motion animation. Its beautiful cinematography, electrifying puppetry, marvelous costume and production design all collide at once to bring together a truly once in a lifetime film that leaves me satisfied every time I watch it.

It tells the story of a talking fox named Mr. Fox – or Foxy as his friends call him. A former thief turned newspaper columnist, Foxy lives a very mundane life in his home underground. He feels alienated from his lifestyle and wants to stop “feeling poor.” Despite being warned at every turn, he purchases a home inside a tree(although not a treehouse) in the most dangerous neighborhood in the whole valley.

Foxy’s neighbors are none other than Walt Boggis, Nate Bunce and Frank Bean. These men, in the words of Foxy’s friend Badger, are “three of the meanest, nastiest, ugliest farmers in the history of the valley.” However, being that Foxy is a retired thief, he decides one night to steal from all of the farmers in one last big heist. Boggis, Bunce and Bean then decide to hunt down and kill Foxy as retribution. It’s now up to Mr. Fox to save his friends and family in order to finally defeat the three farmers.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” was Wes Anderson’s first venture into stop-motion animation(“Isle of Dogs” was his second). Words can’t describe the immense detail and precision taken into the puppetry and sets. Every animal, person and place is given such flavor that the animation nearly overshadows the rest of the film.

Sure, a film like “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is fun to admire for its puppetry and acting, but I think so much more can be drawn from its inner meanings: after every bitter winter comes a jubilant spring.”

This film, as well as others in Anderson’s filmography, has the unique accomplishment of having a perfect cast. George Clooney as Mr. Fox is essential to the narrative’s success. The same applies for Meryl Streep as Mrs. Fox or Bill Murray as Badger. Each actor gives so much personality to their character and makes the film so much more enjoyable.

But I think my favorite part of the film is its warm atmosphere. Wes Anderson is the most stylized director in cinematic history. Applying his quirky signatures of constant symmetry, vibrant color palettes, dry humor and over the top characters, to such an iconic children’s book is such a bold, brilliant and fresh idea.

Upon my latest rewatch, I was struck by the film’s relevance. When Boggis, Bunce and Bean go after Foxy, they do so by digging them out. The foxes live in a tree and the farmers’ goal is to pull the roots right out from under them. When this happens, Foxy makes a quick decision: dig down. Every fox in the house digs, digs and digs. As the farmers get closer to them, they dig underground even harder to evade them.

I feel like this could also stand as an allegory for what we all are going through right now. I make no enemies when I say that we’ve all had a tough year. We narrowly avoided a war with Iran, watched oppressive policing and its aftermath and survived another turbulent election. But let’s not forget the worst of all: we are still living during a pandemic.

Day after day, week after week, it seems we keep hitting a new rock bottom. Even though we keep digging to get away, more violence and problems keep arising. It just seems like none of us can catch a break.

There comes a point in “Fantastic Mr. Fox” when all the animals have a feast because they think that they’ve dug deep enough that Boggis, Bunce and Bean can’t get to them. “I guess we have these three ugly farmers to thank for one thing,” Foxy says during a toast. “They’ve reminded us to be thankful and aware of each other.”

This is the most important line of the film to me because it reminds me that there is always solace to be taken in the darkness. No matter the battle, there is always a chance to come out on top.

We eventually find out that the animals celebrated too early because the farmers flood the animals out so they can confront them head on. For the next 45 minutes we watch as the characters we’ve grown to love face the toughest part of their journey. And guess what: they defeat Boggis, Bunce and Bean and live happily ever after.

Sure, a film like “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is fun to admire for its puppetry and acting, but I think so much more can be drawn from its inner meanings: after every bitter winter comes a jubilant spring. And in the midst of the current pandemic, it’s more important than ever that movies like these can remind us we’ll make it out. It won’t be this year, it may not be the next, or the one after that – but it will eventually happen. No matter what, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel if we just stick together, follow the experts and act in kindness with one another.