A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: November 13, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: 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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