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The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

Retro Review: ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ has yet to be topped in stop-motion

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Emma Liu

This article is part of the “Retro Review” series. Each month, four films — united by a singular theme — are assessed. The theme for November 2023 is “stop-motion.”

“Does anyone actually read my column?”  Mr. Fox (George Clooney) asks.

Relatable.

Before the 2009 release of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” the idea of combining Wes Anderson’s unique aesthetic and stop-motion animation sounded like a match made in heaven. Well … it’s way better than that. This is the best stop-motion has to offer, and if a film ends up topping this, that will be one incredible watch.

Mr. Fox, a skillful and nimble thief at heart, stepped away from his criminal profession years ago after promising his wife, Felicity Fox (Meryl Streep), that he would leave that lifestyle behind. That promise crumbles like Mrs. Bean’s (Helen McCrory) famous ginger apple snap when he steals from the infamous Boggis, Bunce and Bean farms. Chaos descends upon Mr. Fox’s family, friends and animal neighbors as he tries to make up for his broken vow.

Plot summary out of the way — phew. 

On that note, the plot is simply flawless: There are no slow moments, only memorable ones. If there’s an ideal runtime for a stop-motion film, it must be 87 minutes because every single second of the film is worthwhile and beautiful in its composition.

Anderson, known for his infatuation with corduroy and symmetry, deserves more credit for bringing such beautiful creativity — and growling animal noises — to the film. When Badger (Bill Murray) and Mr. Fox argue in the former’s office, the animal sounds the pair unleash are simply brilliant. The grunts and growls are fantastic — and so is the rest of the sound in this film. Can’t forget Mr. Fox’s trademark whistle either!

Also, that brownish-orange jacket that Mr. Fox dons is unreal. Need it. Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon) with that trench coat, too, man oh man. It’s stop-motion costume design perfection.

There’s a trend on some social media sites where users attach colors to certain movies or shows. Well, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” might be the most orange movie of all time. It’s absolutely gorgeous! The colors are so vivid that they’re almost overwhelming. Even the disgusting lights of a grocery store are somehow enjoyable. 

The backdrops and cinematography in the film are stunning, too. Whether it’s the waterfall in the emotional scene between Mr. and Mrs. Fox or the mineral reservoir in a tense scene between the couple, the mesmerizing mise-en-scene can make it difficult to pay attention to what’s going on — in the best way possible, of course.

After much consideration and deliberation, this film has dethroned “The Nightmare Before Christmas” as the film with the best movement in stop-motion history. As beautiful as Jack Skellington’s cartwheels are, how can one not get lost as the foxes go digging underground or when they’re scampering around during their thievery? Unbelievable.

Quick pause here. Yes, this review has, so far, consisted of nothing but compliments. Too bad. It’s just that good.

Anderson’s wit can be seen all across his filmography and is increasingly evident in this film’s dialogue. For example, when Ash (Jason Schwartzman) expresses jealousy over his lab partner Agnes’ (Juman Malouf) new infatuation with his cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson), Ash and Agnes share this back-and-forth:

“You’re supposed to be my lab partner,” Ash says.

“I am,” Agnes replies.

“No, you’re not. You’re disloyal,” Ash concludes.

It’s simple but genius. Smart and funny instances of dialogue like this are everywhere in the film. Not to mention the plethora of heartfelt and emotional moments that pack a sucker of a punch. 

To top it all off, the film has a memorable villain in Bean, a terrifying farmer and manufacturer of hard apple cider. Anderson and Noah Baumbach’s script gives him a bone-chilling backstory that makes the audience fear him. Gambon also does well in differentiating his voice a bit so it doesn’t sound like Albus Dumbledore, who he played in every “Harry Potter” film following Richard Harris’ passing. 

And about that scene near the end where the foxes (and opossum) see the wolf in the wild — there aren’t many scenes in cinematic history that rival its beauty.

Enough of gushing over this movie! Time for the negatives:

Moving on.

Anderson’s timeless and flawless stop-motion classic is just a level above every other film in the subgenre. Hopefully, it can have a rival someday.

And the awards for the best and the worst stop-motion films recapped in “Retro Reviews” go to…

Best of the month: “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (Wes Anderson, 2009) — the subgenre’s quintessential film.

Worst of the month: “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (Nick Park and Steve Box, 2005) — aged like rancid blue cheese.

About the Contributor
Emma Liu, Deputy Design Editor
Emma Liu is a second-year behavioral neuroscience and design major. She is currently working as the deputy design editor for The News. Originally from Philadelphia, Emma loves to collect sonny angels, volunteer at local orgs and find good food in her free time.
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