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Heroes of the Zeroes: The Fantastic Mr. Fox

by on April 13, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“The Fantastic Mr. Fox”
Rated PG

Ennui rarely feels as exhilarating as it does in Wes Anderson’s hands.

Like most of his films, 2009’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” was no hit. Anderson’s ideas of community and togetherness are more idiosyncratic and, at times, abrasive than most audiences are willing to consider.

But they’re never any less affecting, and in the devilishly inventive “Fox,” Roald Dahl’s source material finds the perfect adaptation in Anderson’s approach — something children will only appreciate more as they age. It’s like watching an uncle tackle an oft-told tale for a nephew, embellishing it with sumptuous bits that sit just this side of inappropriate naughtiness.

In a wildly unhinged, hoot-and-howl performance, George Clooney voices Mr. Fox, a married father unable to reconcile refinement with raw animalism. (Marvel at the contrast of a fox in a double-breasted suit snapping a chicken’s neck offscreen.) After setting his sights on three piggish farmers, a war threatens Fox’s entire animal kingdom.

Filmed as stop-motion animation at half the usual speed, “Fox” resembles a pop-up book springing to life. Landscapes resemble carpet remnants and fire extinguishers plume what looks like cotton candy. Anderson and his team boundlessly, buoyantly fill each frame with fine flourishes and Anderson wrangles emotional payoffs from the screen’s deepest corners. It’s a visual splendor with repeat-viewing power to be cherished.

As business went, a Thanksgiving release in a crowded field seemed unwise. But it’s a perfect film for that holiday — a low-fidelity film about high-flying pleasures of eating tonight, and together, with friends and family.