For a director as distinctive as Wes Anderson, whose movies tend to resemble each other, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” sounded like an opportunity to do something different.
This might be a good thing: The early joys of “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore” had lately gotten a bit familiar (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”). “Mr. Fox” would be a stop-motion animation adaptation of a children’s book by Roald Dahl — complete change of pace, right?
Well, hold on. As it turns out, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” is very much a Wes Anderson movie. The main roles just happen to be played by talking animals.
Greatly amplified from Dahl’s slim book, Anderson’s “Mr. Fox” tells the tale of an existentially restless fox, who doesn’t have a first name but is rumored to be fantastic. George Clooney, very much in the Wes Anderson spirit, provides the voice.
Until reformed by his wife (Meryl Streep) and tamed by the birth of their undersized son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman), Mr. Fox was an expert chicken thief. Now he’s reluctantly settled into domestic bliss in a nice tree.
Ah, but the farms of those rich landowners Boggis, Bunce and Bean are so tantalizingly near. And they sure have a lot of chickens lying around (and smoked meats, apple cider and other delicacies). Mr. Fox and his possum sidekick Wylie (Wally Wolodarsky) can hardly resist.
With its determined-but-foolish hero and its complicated plan-making, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” easily resembles something the characters in “Bottle Rocket” might have dreamed up.
Throw in the oddball collection of vintage tunes (a little Burl Ives, a little Beach Boys) and the good-natured vocal cast (Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson among them), and you’ve got a typical Wes Anderson comedy.
Maybe animated films about animals have to move at a different pace from live-action pictures; something doesn’t quite click here. After a while the interest of the stop-motion furry creatures wore off and I got a little bored by the action. The film is better in its little moments than in its overall sweep.
But those moments are often wonderful. The underachieving son, Ash, is always funny, especially in his rivalry with a cousin (Eric Chase Anderson) who comes to visit. And Mr. Fox’s relationship with the compliant Wylie is splendid.
A classic? No. Fun? Yes — especially if you have a taste for dry humor and the sudden, violent depiction of how a fox might actually devour his morning toast. If a fox ate morning toast.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox” * * *
The stop-motion animated film based on a Roald Dahl book turns out to be a very typical Wes (“Rushmore”) Anderson movie, with its determined-but-foolish hero (voiced by George Clooney), extensive plan-making and smattering of pop songs. Somehow the action doesn’t sustain itself, but the film is full of charming moments.
Rated: PG for subject matter
Showing: Alderwood, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Meridian, Metro, Oak Tree, Woodinville