Fantastic Mr Fox, The (UK - BD RB)
That was pure wild animal craziness but you won't hear our Marcus cussing it...
Twelve fox years ago, Mr Fox (George Clooney) promised Mrs Fox (Meryl Streep) that he wouldn’t hunt for chickens again, and since then the couple and their son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) have lived a humble life beneath the ground.
Now Mr Fox wants more. He wants to live in a tree, with a view and live a full fox life. So he hatches a master plan to rob local farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean in one final job, but in doing so he’s put not only himself but his family and friends at risk.
2009 saw two filmmakers who live primarily in the cult following sector of Hollywood branch out into family movies. The first being Spike Jonze with Where The Wild Things Are and the second, Wes Anderson with The Fantastic Mr Fox. Both directors chose a much loved classic children’s book to play with, both expanded the relatively small page counts into full length movies and most importantly both made movies with a style all their own without cowering beneath any current movie fads or throwing a big eyed, audience friendly CGI extravaganza at us.
With The Fantastic Mr Fox, Wes Anderson took his all star cast and opted for stop-motion animation approach. This brave move proved to be a visual delight from the very first trailer and surprisingly felt exactly like a Wes Anderson movie (who, you should know at this point I rate as one of the best filmmakers around). Seeing the movie for the first time on the big screen at the tail end of last year, I was in awe of just how a good a ride this was. The style is thoroughly impressive, the small quirks that Anderson plays with within the stop-motion technique a joy, the choice of music on the soundtrack inspired (as per usual) and I honestly think this was one of the best screenplays of last year.
Watching the movie again on Blu-ray and studying every little detail in HD, the movie was even better than before. I’ve hyped Clooney before and he’s absolutely perfect here. His vocals just make Mr Fox great to be around with his smart dialogue, quick witted comments and heartfelt speeches. The combination of his voice and the Mr Fox design just makes for a well rounded character that is great to spend time with and always deliciously off beat.
The fantastic-ness continues throughout the rest of the cast, with Meryl Streep providing a pitch perfect counter to Mr Fox with Mrs Fox. Michael Gambon offers up a villain that just makes me grin for, ‘let’s say’, his whole screen time. Bill Murray being, well Bill Murray, but as a Badger, is another fine character to add to his Wes Anderson collaborations, and then of course there’s Jason Schwartzman as Mr Fox’s son Ash. What a character this is! I think Schwartzman is brilliant at the best of times (see his new show Bored to Death or listen to either of his Coconut Records album for more proof of that), but here it seems that every line of dialogue takes full advantage of his talent and he adds yet another great character to the world of The Fantastic Mr Fox.
The first time I saw The Fantastic Mr Fox at the cinema I thought it was, well, fantastic. Watching it again with this Blu-ray release, I think it’s a masterpiece. It excels on every level, whether it be its triumphs in stop-motion animation, its beautiful visuals, its characters and the cast providing their voices all the way down to the simply and frankly awesome fact that Wes Anderson has made another awe inspiring Wes Anderson movie despite the fact he’s done it with puppets and aimed it at a family market. Seriously, is there anything this guy can’t do?
From the very first time I saw the first trailer in HD, it was apparent that this would be a hell of a Blu-ray to watch out for and 20th Century Fox haven’t let me down. With the sheer level of detail on offer here, it’s a disc that you could pause pretty much any frame of and study for hours. The animals' fur down to the fabrics of their clothes is one thing but look at those backgrounds and there’s so much more to hype up.
The textures of every single set is on show, all glowing in warm autumn lighting and with a semi-natural feel, despite knowing full well these are models. Small details, I picked up on with this viewing included small fossils within the walls of the hideout that the animals dug themselves into, the various skin textures of the three farmers' faces (all different and all well captured in HD) and of course the small details within the set dressing, such as labels or furniture materials that just wouldn’t look this good in standard definition no matter how upscaled the DVD was.
The entire Mr Fox project was a hell of a feat and thankfully this release does plenty to show it all off in fine detail.
Once again the Mr Fox Blu-ray comes up trumps. To begin with, the musical numbers used on the soundtrack sound bloody great in the DTS-HD track. Songs can split through the speakers wonderfully and have obviously been thought about to sell the song choice. The Bobby Fuller Four – Let Her Dance number is a fine example of how to present a song well, with vocals strong in the rears and the music seemingly everywhere, it really adds to the feel good moment of the closing scenes.
On top of that, the dialogue isn’t only strong and clear, but Wes Anderson’s technique of recording many of his actors outside or in specific locations to capture an atmosphere totally comes across on the track. Sometimes you can hear Clooney’s voice in amongst the slight hiss that’s unavoidable when recording outside and while some will argue this is unprofessional, in my mind it gives an extra bit of life to movie that feels like a world all its own.
Of course, this isn’t a movie that going to be taking advantage of big aggressive feats of surround sound power but everything The Fantastic Mr Fox needs to do, it does more than well and just adds up to a great presentation in both the video and audio departments.
A Fox disc that seems to have all, yes all of the same features as the US equivalent? Yes, it seems to be the case, despite an influx of lesser treatment for other UK releases of late.
The main body is six featurettes that make up a play all run time of forty four minutes and a few odd seconds. It’s presented in HD and while it isn’t as in depth as I’d hoped, it features plenty of Wes, loads of Bill Murray and a splattering of the other cast recording their lines (check out the Clooney stuff, its great). Beyond that, it shows off the animators at work and just how detailed the entire process is and while this isn’t anything particularly new for this pretty straight forward style of features, we get a nice hint of the enormity of this slow technique.
‘Beginners Guide to Whack Bat’ (01:12 HD) is a brief recap of the rules in the movie and lastly ‘The World of Rahl Dahl’ (03:00 HD) is a heart warming seal of approval from Dahl’s widow and her admiration of Wes Anderson’s dedication to the book.
Disc two is a DVD/Digital copy as per the usual Fox Triple Play releases.
Fantastic just isn’t a big enough word to describe how great this movie is. Having re-watched both this and the great Up over the last few weeks, Mr. Fox is by far my choice for the animated Oscar win (even though Up will no doubt take it on the night). Wes Anderson’s latest movie does everything his other movies have done. It's thoroughly entertaining, told with Anderson’s unique voice and he, as always, makes filmmaking feel like a true art form as opposed to a just a cinema seat filler.
The Blu-ray backs up Anderson’s work with a whole lot of HD greatness even if it’s lacking in charm. The disc menu is fairly dull and the packaging design is pretty bland (especially when compared to the stellar Criterion version of his movies from the past) but the actual content is enjoyable enough making this an easy recommendation from me.
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Marcus Doidge
General viewing, but some scenes may be unsuitable for young children
Release Date: 1st March 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Audio Descriptive Service English
Extras: The Look of Fantastic Mr Fox, The Cast, From Script to Screen, The Puppet Makers, Still Life (Puppet Animation), Bill and His Badger, Fantastic Mr. Fox: The World of Roald Dahl, A Beginner's Guide to Whack-Bat. DVD/Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman
Length: 87 minutes
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