I'm a man who generally tends to agree with the majority. If a movie is widely panned, I tend to hate it too. If a movie is widely loved, I sing its praises to anyone who will listen. But sometimes, a movie comes along where I'm absolutely baffled as to why it is so exalted. As of this writing, Fantastic Mr. Fox rests at an impressive 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics across the country are giving it widespread acclaim for its animation, humor and direction. Allow me to offer a dissenting opinion.
Put simply, Fantastic Mr. Fox sucks. The more I think about it, the less I like it. It's like an annoying leech of a person who won't leave you alone and begs for your approval. It plays like a desperate attempt to set itself apart from other stop motion animated films, but ends up creating a product that doesn't even come close to stacking up to the best in the genre.
The movie stars George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr. and Mrs. Fox, a couple who used to steal birds from the local farms for food. Now, because of the danger of his previous job, Mr. Fox writes for the local paper, the Gazette. Where this paper originates from I don't know. Mr. Fox never goes to work and his occupation is only fleetingly mentioned. Anyway, he misses his days of stealing birds, so he goes back to the dangerous job which nets him a lot of trouble with the three local farmers, Boggis, Bunce and Bean, voiced by Robin Hurlstone, Hugo Guinness and Michael Gambon, respectively. The three become determined to stop Mr. Fox, so they destroy his home, blowing up the ground it rests on into a smoldering crater, and position snipers around the perimeter. A bit excessive if you ask me. Eventually, Mr. Fox's nephew is kidnapped by the three and a rescue mission is underway.
Wes Anderson seems like a love him or hate him type of director. Some love his bizarre sense of humor and his idiosyncratic way of storytelling while others loathe it. There is no middle ground. Although I have not seen all of his movies, the one I remember best is Rushmore and based on that, I must say I'm with the loathers. Anderson always feels like he's trying too hard to be quirky, particularly in Fantastic Mr. Fox. It had such a strong desire to be unique that it ended up being nothing more than an ephemeral 87 minutes that I've already begun to forget.
Examples of its pretentious humor can be seen in its smug, cutesy title cards that say "One Fox Hour Later" or "2 Years Later (12 Fox Years)." I'm sorry, explain to me why that's funny again? In fact, very little of this movie is funny. The trailers do a better job of delivering the jokes than the actual final product. It's edited better and the music knows when to cut out to help deliver that comedic punch. Jokes that were funny in the trailer are not in the movie.
As for the animation, some will argue it's just Wes Anderson's own way of being different and the choppy look of the character movements was a stylistic choice. Well, la dee da. That doesn't mean it works. Compared to visual wonders like this year's Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox doesn't hold up. It felt like my brain was constantly switching on and off for an hour and a half because the animation felt so incomplete.
This is one bad movie. Never before have I felt so negative towards something with such high critical praise. I simply couldn't get around its boring visuals, uninteresting story and its repeated use of the same jokes over and over again. It barely reaches a feature length runtime, but I felt like I was sitting there for three hours. It lacks the inventiveness, emotional integrity and heart that brilliant stop motion animated films like the aforementioned Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas possess.
Why are critics enjoying it so much? It's tough to say. Maybe it's the holiday cheer floating through the air. Maybe it's the family togetherness that is so integral to Thanksgiving that this movie upholds. Or maybe someone spiked their drinks. How else could it be explained? I'm in the minority on this one, but I stand by my criticisms. Fantastic Mr. Fox is a failure.
Fantastic Mr. Fox receives 1/5