The Fantastic Mr. Fox

So last night I got a last minute invite from a friend to a screening of The Fantastic Mr. Fox in midtown! I didn't really read the info on the email invite because I assumed it was whatever whatever. What I didn't see was the invite asked for 'Festive Holiday Attire'. Oops. I got there and all the guys were in jacket and tie (or at least a jacket) and the women were in dresses and stuff. I was there all schlemieled with my shirt tails hanging out and a zip up hoodie. I hate being undressed. I think I gotta make a rule that whenever there is any doubt I should always wear a jacket. Worst case scenario I look kind of snazzy in a jacket. The event was a bigger deal than I expected too. First off. Free popcorn. Whenever they're giving away popcorn you know something is up. And as we walked down the aisle I saw that there were alot of seats reserved. Paper stuck to seats saying stuff like-- Reserved for Wes Anderson. Reserved for Bill Murray. Half a row Reserved for Meryl Streep. I stared at the Meryl Streep signs. I was like... Wait a sec...  Is Meryl Streep going to be... here!?

The room filled with half-familiar faces that I couldn't really place. I was angry at my dumb brain for being so bad at names. Soon the daughter of Roald Dahl got up and started talking about how this great organization called Partners in Health was sponsoring the event. She talked a little about that. Then Wes Anderson (director of the flick) gets up and he introduces people involved with the film that were in the audience. He first thanks Meryl Streep-- who then five rows behind me stands up and receives her applause. I stared at her like, 'Holy fuck! That's Meryl Streep! Right there!' She looked just like she looks in the movies! (I felt extra shame about my hoodie). Then he goes around the room and announces people here and there. But basically last night I went to the movies with Meryl Streep!

Anyway, about the movie. Umm... I definitely liked it. Definitely didn't love it. The whole movie is in stop-motion animation. (Here's the making of if you wanna see.) So when this film started up and I realized what went into it-- I was kind of floored. SO much detail work. But it took me a while to adjust to the look of it all. I didn't love the look. It was fun-- but something about it was far short of endearing. And the close-ups were weirdly disturbing at times. Plus, it also took me a while to match the voices to the characters. I kept picturing the actors in the sound booth reading the lines. George Clooney's voice was so distinct I never dismissed his presence from the movie. He was on top of Mr. Fox. Not in him. Soon I started to zone out on the plot or the plot zoned out on me. I was less interested in what was going on and more into how it all looked and worked. Yadda.

Within 20 minutes I was reminded that I was watching a Wes Anderson movie. Great attention to detail and color and music while sadly neglecting reality and emotion. Blatant over-insistence on originality and hipnicity. Standards included: Jason Schwartzman spoiled snarkery, Owen Wilson's half-dumb smart guy, Bill Murray officially shoving Nicholson off the 'Coolest Guy in Movies' pedestal. Combine all that with Brian Wilson music and Rolling Stones and right fielder Jarvis Cocker and there's a virtual plethora of hipster distractions to hide the fact that the plot is sort of a mess and the characters never truly come to life.

That being said, every third scene or so redeems this movie over and over throughout. The Rat character looked and sounded and moved amazing (scary for kids probably). The human characters all had there moments of fun. And cheap shot gags worked over and over again. I laughed out loud a bunch of times and some of the scenes (especially the ultrasmooth train whizzby)-- did come across as standalone art. Much of all of it looked pretty fantastic.

In the end, I walked out feeling like I saw something that was a genuine accomplishment. I respected the work and the effort. But Wes Anderson still remains two-feet firmly on his own otherworldly turf of coolio-er than thouness-- and the snappy attitude functions as a velvet roped barrier to entry. That being said-- this flick holds together way better than Life Aquatic and is a huge step up from the now totally unwatchable Darjeeling disaster. So that's nice. But maybe next time instead of being obsessed with the surface image-- redirect some energy into actual depth?

Three Good Things About the Movie

- It captured the spirit (as far as I can tell..)
- The animals eating.
- Some of the action scenes were amazing to look at.

Three Bad Things About the Movie

- Impossible to love. Impossible to hate.
- I'm not sure if anyone really asked for this.
- The Fox/Human interaction was clunkily irrational at best.

All in all, this is a pretty solid effort but far from an instant classic. It's probably fun for the whole family (even though it probably sails over kids heads for the most part-- and they will probably wtf the cheapness of the overall look). Whatever. Anyway. Wes Anderson fans will probably dig this flick alot no doubt--- but I'm still not sold on being a fan of his. I'm really more of an distant admirer of his work-- which may be what he's really going for at this point...


PS. Other celeb sightings included Bill Murray, Woody Harrelson, and Original MTV VJ 'Duff.'..