Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox is great. Still only in limited release, Anderson’s sixth feature officially ends his frustrating creative downturn. His career came storming out of the gate, with the one-two-three punch of Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums. But then he stopped writing with Owen Wilson, and his next two features (The Life Aquatic and The Darjeeling Limited) were big disappointments. His films started to feel like a pale imitation of what he used to do so well, and that special energy has been captured again for Fantastic Mr. Fox. Adapted from Roald Dahl’s beloved book, Anderson’s film is visionary and funny.
The film delivers with both clever animation as well as a clever script, the kind of cocktail you only really find in Pixar movies. Fantastic Mr. Fox clearly comes from Wes Anderson’s brain, taking his meticulous set designs and 1960s songs, but bringing them into an imaginative world of talking animals. Like all of Anderson’s films, this is the story of a misunderstood male trying to achieve ambitious goals while both alienating and uniting a community of eccentric misfits. In this case, it’s George Clooney as Fox, who must save his community after endangering them in the eyes of some malevolent farmers. Similar to other Anderson heroes (Dignan, Max Fischer, Steve Zissou), Fox is charming but selfish. Unlike recent Anderson films, though, Fantastic Mr. Fox is not selfish with its sense of joy and entertainment. It might even be one of the best movies of the year.