Fantastic Mr. Fox (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Studio: Twentieth Century-Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 87 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish, Portuguese
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, others
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 23, 2010
Review Date: March 23, 2010
There’s a definite wryness and dryness to the characters and plot of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. The same curt, quirky characters that people such Roald Dahl classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach are present here, too, and while the tale is well told and beautifully animated with stop motion techniques similar to those in Disney’s James and the Giant Peach, you likely won’t find the storytelling and characterizations quite as ingratiating as in other animated productions. Despite the animal characters, their problems and the story’s message are all too human and in many cases not all that geared toward children. This is an animated picture with decidedly adult appeal.
After narrowly escaping destruction while in the process of stealing some squabs from a local farmer, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) promises his wife (Meryl Streep) that he’s out of the thieving business for good, and, true to his word, begins writing a personality column for the local newspaper. After a few years, however, the old desires creep back into his psyche, and enlisting the help of his best possum friend Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky), he begins raiding the warehouses of three nasty area farmers: Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness), and Bean (Michael Gambon) who then wage full scale war on the Fox family and all of the neighboring vicinity’s wild animals. Coming to the aid of his father is his somewhat neglected and self conscious son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and Ash’s more adept cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson).
Director Wes Anderson and co-writer Noah Baumbach have extended Dahl’s original tale by adding expansions to the beginning and ending of the story making more of a feature length narrative. Even with those additions (which have been accomplished in an approach very true to Dahl’s own eccentric storytelling style), the movie barely has enough plot to make it to feature length with extended set pieces during the sieges of the Fox’s home and the later retaliation by the animals against the vicious humans. (Indeed, Boggis’ demolition of a trailer headquarters is mind boggling in its complexity and expert animation, one of many scenes of destruction the film seems to revel in.) The tale’s moral of individuality being all-important gets somewhat lost along the way and even when it’s stressed by several characters, it’s overpowered by the sheer moviemaking skill of the amazing technicians who make this miniaturized world seem so real and vital.
While the voice actors give great verve and individuality to the characters they’re enacting, sometimes the voices are just too identifiable and therefore become hard to place with the characters on-screen. George Clooney’s title character certainly falls into that category. His voice is so unmistakable that it seemed odd coming from the mouth of this character (I had a similar problem with Bruce Willis in the CGI animated feature Over the Hedge). Meryl Streep’s loyal and sometimes despairing wife is also a very identifiable voice, but as the character plays a much smaller role in the on-screen events, the voice isn’t as problematic. No such problems with Jason Schwartzman’s uneasy, unsatisfied Ash or Wally Wolodarsky’s eager-to-please Kylie. Equally effective in a smaller but more sinister part is Willem Dafoe’s sneering, combative Rat and Bill Murray’s droll Badger, a lawyer by trade.
The film’s 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully delivered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. As the film has a decidedly brownish color palette, there aren’t eye popping colors of every description on display here. Sharpness, however, is second to none as one can count every hair on every animal on display, and there are acres of details in the sets and costumes that these characters inhabit. Only the slightest banding in some navy blue skies prevents the transfer from scoring a perfect video quality rating. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix delivers the eclectic music score very well into the available channels (everything from “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” to “Night and Day” and “Ol’ Man River”), but the remainder of the mix veers strongly toward the fronts with disappointing lack of use of the rear channels and the subwoofer. The voices are nicely recorded and are always clear and distinct, but this is not a reference soundtrack that one often finds in current animated movies.
“Making Mr. Fox Fantastic” is the release’s strongest bonus feature, six featurettes on the various aspects of the stop-action animation process. The viewer may watch the six segments separately ("The Look," "From Script to Screen," "The Puppet Makers," "Still Life," "The Cast," "Bill and His Badger") or in one 44 ¾-minute grouping. In them, the director Wes Anderson along with his production designer, some producers, the director of photography, the effects director, and the director of animation discuss various facets of the art of making this kind of film. We also see several of the actors recording their lines (surprisingly done on live locations for the ambiance rather than in a recording studio) as well as visiting with the widow of the original author who was very pleased with the finished product. This is presented in 1080p.
“A Beginner’s Guide to Whack-Bat” is a very brief tidbit explaining the rules for a baseball/cricket-style game which is played in the film. The 1080p vignette runs 1 ¼ minutes.
“Fantastic Mr. Fox: The World of Roald Dahl” is a too-brief 3-minute interview with Dahl’s widow who was astonished to find much of the furniture and knickknacks from their home Gypsy House replicated and used in the sets for the movie. This is presented in 1080i.
The film’s 1080p theatrical trailer runs 2 ½ minutes.
There are also 1080p trailers for Date Night, Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, and Marley & Me 2.
The second disc in the set is a DVD release of the movie.
The third disc in the set is a digital copy of the movie with enclosed instructions for installing it on Mac and PC devices.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Fantastic Mr. Fox may find more fans among adults than it does among children as its themes and much of its humor are more adult-oriented. An excellent video and audio transfer plus some revealing bonus features and both a DVD and digital copy add extra value to this Blu-ray package.