He’s Fantastic and he’s a Fox! / by Heather Taylor

A short 12 hours ago an email popped into my inbox. A spare ticket for a film was up for grabs. But not just any film. Tonight was the world premiere of Fantastic Mr. Fox as well as the opening night of the BFI 53rd London Film Festival. I fired back an immediate yes. Normally I’m always a couple seconds too late when free things are up for offer, but this time, I got the ticket (thanks Jim)! Fantastic Mr. Fox here I come.

Now anyone who knows me knows I try to fit too many things in a day, so it wasn’t a big surprise that I was running late. I missed my train and I still had to go home and change (black tie all the way!) SO I jumped into a cab. On principle I don't take cabs. They are like a magical wonder to me yes but I do hate to spend that much money to get somewhere, especially in London. Now being a couple minutes (or 10) behind wouldn’t normally bother me but it was 6:20 and if I wasn’t at the theatre by 7 pm. I wouldn’t get in. No exceptions.

OK. The pressure is on. Rush hour. London. Black cab. My driver suggests Leicester Square may be busy – something about Clooney or something. “Yes, yes!” I exclaim. “That’s where I’m going! I’m going to premiere of his film” With fire in his eyes, the driver looked back at me and said, “You will get there. I promise.” With that his foot went to the floor, and we sped off through town. Well sped may be a bit much as we got cut off, hit traffic, and were blocked by road works. As we got closer and closer, he capped the cost of the ride saying the slow down was his fault (goodness, I’ve never got that before! Thank you my Canadian little black dress). When we got as close as possible, he gave me a thumbs up as I ran through Leicester Square. Ticket in hand, I crossed the red carpet and entered the cinema.

Fantastic Mr. Fox is Wes Anderson’s first animated film and what a film it was. Not only did it have a top British stop animation working on the look, it featured a star-studded cast of voices including George Clooney (he’s so handsome in real life despite the fuzzy photo below – sigh),Meryl Streep (she wasn’t there as she had the flu), Jason SchwartzmanBill MurrayEric AndersonJarvis Cocker…the list goes on. To accomodate the popularity of the film, both the Empire and the Odeon showed the film at the same time so the cast and crew had to open the Odeon film and then rush over to the Empire (where I was).

Wes Anderson opened with a speech about the film and what it was like working on it in the UK. After a few words I didn’t completely listen to due to Clooney standing a couple rows from where I was sitting but soon Anderson introduced the cast, crew and Roald Dahl’s wife who was the last to come up to the stage.

A very blurry George Clooney

A very blurry George Clooney

For those who don’t know the story of Fantastic Mr. Fox, it starts with Mr and Mrs Fox (Clooney and Streep) who live with their son Ash (Schwartzman) and a visiting cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson). 12 years before, Mr. Fox promised to stop stealing after hearing of his child’s impending arrival but his animal instincts are kicking back in. Soon he’s back to his old ways and his thievery untimately endangers his family and his entire community. Will Mr. Fox and friends be able to band together to save them from the 3 evil farmer’s Mr. Fox has been stealing from, or are they doomed to die hiding underground?

The film was magical. I’ve been a fan of stop motion animation ever since I saw the California Raisins Christmas Special as a kid. Anderson used this form of animation in such a way that it paid homage to the original book without losing any of the drive one would expect from an animated film. Best of all, as the characters could go anywhere and do anything, the tiny details (every time someone swore they said “cuss” instead of the swear word) and sight gags added to the fun and humour of the film.

I’ve seen almost all of Wes Anderson’s films and found this to be the most mature and linear of his pieces despite it being an animation. Though there was still a random meander to it that I find charming but relentless in his other films, here it all played back to poking fun at convention while still keeping on that same path. For instance, when there was a montage sequence, it played over the music of Petey (Jaris Cocker) and his rag tag band who were gathered elsewhere waiting for Mr. Fox and family to appear. This is all paraphrasing here, but as Petey sang away, his evil farmer boss, Mr. Bean, asked him what he was doing. “Just making stuff up as I go along” to which Bean said “That’s not how you write a song.” Petey shrugged and said “I guess not.” Was this a gentle jibe at Jarvis or maybe Anderson himself?

I don’t want to get in much more detail on how good this was because it is. And with so many good lines, as soon as one entered, it’d promptly leave my head to make room for the next. Maybe I could have saved myself all this time by just writing “IT WAS GREAT. GO SEE IT.” Really…do go see it.

So I’ll end with this. A line I think I’m getting right. Riley (with the departure of a baddie): “He just went bananas.” Mr. Fox: “Yes. He went bananas.”