For Christmas, my boyfriend bought me Fantastic Mr Fox, a favourite by Roald Dahl, and Fantastic Mr Fox… the DVD! It’s been quite a few years since I’ve read any Roald Dahl and so I opted to watch the DVD first, with the theory that it couldn’t tarnish my already vague memory of the book.
The film is directed by Wes Anderson, who is believed to have signed up as director because of his love for Dahl, and thankfully, it shows. The stop-motion animation gives this movie an edginess that mirrors Roald Dahl’s quirky style and Quintin Blake’s iconic illustrations. The animation also has an element of storytelling to it that is difficult to articulate; it feels unusually close to the book. Of course, the plot has been subtly developed for the big screen, but the book is very much alive in it.
Don’t be fooled, this is not a U-rated movie. With its PG certificate, it’s as much for adults as it is for kids. The film flirts with darkness and terror: smoking. cider-drinking farmers with guns and blades; animals that are constantly ‘cussing’; and a sophisticated, humanized fox that wildly ravages his food. Yet, it is simultaneously sweet and beautiful and heartwarming and traditional and stylish and funny.
The film truly impressed me, and I’d love to see Wes tackle more of Dahl’s books in this style. After watching it, I reached apprehensively for the book, keen to refresh my memory of the original story and interested to see exactly how closely the movie follows it. The movie seemed to almost enhance my reading of the book: when I read, “There was a little spark of excitement dancing in his eyes”, I imagined that “little spark” as it was conveyed in the movie; when Mr Fox says, “Ex-actly”, I heard George Clooney’s sly voice; and where plot developments had been introduced for the sake of the movie, they seemed to be the right ones.
The characterisation is genius (the casting of Clooney as the voice of Mr Fox is in my opinion, perfect) and the soundtrack is inspired. But what struck me most, is that this is a movie, which unlike most big screen adaptations, isn’t trying to be bigger than the book. Instead the movie pays homage to the book, respects the book, and if it’s even possible, betters the book.
Hats off to the Fantastic Mr Anderson…