Fantastic Mr. Fox



Offbeat family adventure may charm adults more than kids.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: November 3, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids might pick up a few of the animals' Latin names (which Mr. Fox enthusiastically uses in one scene).

Positive messages

The animals band together, despite their many differences, to keep the malicious farmers from killing them. Father-and-son relationships are portrayed positively as Mr. Fox discovers Ash's worth, even though at first he seemed to doubt him. Mrs. Fox's attitude about what makes a person fantastic demonstrates that everyone has something that makes them extraordinary. There's a running theme about the animals' wilder instincts conflicting with their more people-like responsibilities.

Positive role models

Although Mr. Fox steals from the three farmers -- and lies to his wife about doing it -- he ultimately mends his ways so that his family and the other animals can settle down in peace. Mrs. Fox encourages her son by saying that it's what's different about him that makes him special; she also supports her husband, even when she's disappointed in him. Kristofferson is a model child who forgives Ash for being jealous of him and getting him into trouble. Ash matures from trying to live up to his father's expecations and envying Kristofferson doing something exceptional on his own. The farmers are thoroughly nasty (particularly Bean), but they're also clearly the bad guys.

Violence & scariness

The farmers use all sorts of methods to try to kill Mr. Fox: guns, explosives, drowning with hard cider, kidnapping, etc.; the animals eventually fight back. Mr. Fox's tail is shot off and treated as a trophy. A bad-guy character starts a knife fight and eventually dies. The animals kill a few chickens, but nothing grisly is shown. A stand-off scene with a rabid dog is a little tense/scary, as are a few other fight/chase sequences.

Sexy stuff

Mr. and Mrs. Fox embrace and kiss, and Rat alludes to the fact that Mrs. Fox was a "tart" before she married Mr. Fox. Kristofferson and an adolescent female fox flirt and "go steady," making Ash jealous.


Strong language is replaced with frequent use of the word "cuss" -- as in "What the cuss are you doing?" and "cluster cuss."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The adult animals drink hard cider, wine, and champagne, but not to excess. One of the farmers makes his own hard cider (and enjoys several jugs per day). Some pipe and cigarette smoking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that director Wes Anderson's dry, offbeat adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children's story Fantastic Mr. Fox is fine for most grade-schoolers but also has some themes and humor that will go over kids' head. The story features a lot of scheming and violence, as three farmers plot to kill Mr. Fox  for stealing from them. There are explosions, guns, a knife-wielding rat, a rabid dog, and a secondary character's death, but none of it is graphic or too scary (just a bit startling and/or tense in spots). The farmers smoke and drink, as do the adult animals, who tend to drink with dinner. Aside from a couple of kisses between Mr. and Mrs. Fox, there's no sexuality to speak of, and the language is limited to the word "cuss" being used as a substitute for stronger words (as in "what the cuss?").

What's the story?

Director Wes Anderson's latest quirky family drama, FANTASTIC MR. FOX, chronicles how Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney), restless in his tame job as a newspaper columnist, decides to indulge his animalistic urges to steal game (and cider) from the three biggest farmers in the area. Even though stealing means breaking his word to Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), Mr. Fox -- aided by his gullible opossum friend Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky) -- can't help but plan his next big score ... until farmers Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness), and Bean (Michael Gambon) team up to kill the wily thief. Mr. Fox leads his wife, adolescent son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), and nephew Kristofferson (Eric Anderson) into hiding underground, where they meet neighboring badgers, rabbits, mice, and other animals who are suffering due to the farmers' war with Mr. Fox. Starving and unhappy, the animals spur Mr. Fox to keep scheming until they've outwitted the humans.

Is it any good?


After seeing a long parade of 3-D digitally animated movies, Anderson's stop-motion adventure is a welcome delight. The director brings his auteuristic obsession with family dynamics to this offbeat tale, which will probably appeal more to hipster cinephiles than kids who prefer the slick CGI style of other animated releases. Clooney and Streep (does it get much better than that?) are spot-on as middle-aged married parents struggling to balance their wilder instincts with their domestic responsibilities. Clooney in particular is amazingly adept with his voice work -- especially when he gives Mr. Fox's trademark "click click" noise after voicing his brilliant heist plans.

The relationship between cousins Kristofferson -- a gentle spirit with extraordinary skills at everything from meditation to martial arts -- and Ash -- a son desperately trying to live up to his father's grand reputation -- is surprisingly touching and believable. One of the film's most amusing sequences involves a deliciously complicated school sport called Whack Bat (the best fictional game this side of Quidditch), which is explained by none other than Owen Wilson, as Ash and Kristofferson's coach. In addition to Schwartzman and Wilson, other Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe play memorable supporting roles as a badger lawyer and a vindictive rat, respectively. Anderson's purposely quirky films tend to alienate mainstream audiences, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is a charming, heartwarming exception.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about whether Mr. Fox is right to indulge in his "wild animal" instincts. Should hehave honored his promise to Mrs. Fox? What motivates Mr. Fox to stealfrom the farmers?

  • What can you learn from Kristofferson and Ash's relationship? How arethey different, and when does Ash finally become self-confident?

  • How is this movie's style different from other animated movies? What'sthe effect of stop-action animation compared to the slickercomputer-animated animation?

  • How does the movie compare to the book? Is this what you pictured when you read the story?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 13, 2009
DVD release date:March 23, 2010
Cast:Bill Murray, George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Meryl Streep
Director:Wes Anderson
Studio:Fox Searchlight
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Adventures, Book characters, Wild animals
Run time:90 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:action, smoking and slang humor

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 9 year old Written bydrmama November 29, 2009

Not a kid's movie

Our family, ages 9 to 89, all agreed that this is not a kid's movie. The one positive is that the stop motion animation is artistic and visually interesting. Otherwise, we all agreed (even our 9-year-old) that it had no appealing characters, no positive models, unnecessarily negative language (use of the word "cuss" in every other sentence to replace swearing just raises questions from younger kids), and too much violence. We found any redeeming message so buried underneath the negativity and violence that it was lost on younger kids. We do not recommend this movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byJenPete June 29, 2010
Hated it! An adult-oriented film wrapped in child-tempting wrapper of stop-motion animation. Sure, it took a lot of work to make this film, but an Oscar? I sure expected more. So many variations of this story have been told in live action films, and I can't think of many that earn a Kid-friendly rating. The scene of the farmers blasting away with shotguns at Fox and his sidekick as absolutely not acceptable for the younger set. I'm super disappointed CSM has rated this acceptable for children ages 7 and up. PREVIEW MOVIES FOR YOURSELVES. Don't count on anyone else to do this for you. Not even CSM.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Parent Written byBlacksmith88 March 18, 2010

Not worth a tinker's "cuss".

I borrowed it. I won't be buying it. It's slow, it's totally rewritten, it's a rip-off. So it's got Clooney and Streep. Big deal. And what is it with Americans, that all the supposedly "good" guys have American accents and the villains get cod-British accents? Oh, pardon me, there's the hick hillbilly rat too - great stereotyping, eh? Not at all up to Roald Dahl's standard of writing. Don't waste your money.


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