You know how some people manage to look exactly like BOTH of their parents? That combination of Dad's unique goofy smile and Mum's cute button nose means that they could only have been sired by those two specific people? What's more, it's a look that on paper shouldn't work but somehow it kinda does... (or maybe it's just me with a thing about goofy smiles and button noses?)
Fantastic Mr Fox is the movie version of that very definite kind of offspring. Watch this animation and there are a million giveaway signs that mean it could only be the child of Darjeeling Limited director Wes Anderson and kiddy lit legend Roald Dahl.
Fans of the book will be relieved to hear that Dahl's trademarks remain. Like many of his stories, FMF champions the underdog (or in this case, underfox), relishing the power of family bonds over greed.
Fans of Wes Anderson, meanwhile. will see Dahl's characters imbued with Texan director's unique deadpan humour, something which works especially well with animals' more limited range of facial expressions. No wonder Wes loves working with the King Of Miserable, Bill Murray, whose voice features in this as... wait for it... a badger.
Add in Anderson's passion for shooting many scenes head-on, in a tableau style, and letting the intricate positioning of characters do the talking, like a painting, and you've got a family movie as grown-up as any of his previous outings. 'Family' is an apt word too - like The Royal Tenenbaums before it, this a film about relatives and blood ties, however dysfunctional.
All of which is several shades of awesome. Dahl's odd tale of a fox getting his own back wildlife-hating farmers is perfect for a director as matter-0f-fact as Wes. It's the only way to make the story believable. His use of 60s rock on the soundtrack once again does what it always has done - creates a picture of characters slightly at odds with their time, slightly shambolic, gently rebellious. His use of old-skool 'stop motion' animation just reiterates that, creating a film that's less 2009 Hollywood, more 1969 bohemian Europe. To me that's exactly what Dahl the man - and many of his characters - completely embodied.
That said, it doesn't ENTIRELY work. The weird blend of US accents (George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr & Mrs Fox) with English ones (Michael Gambon as Farmer Bean) is messy if you think too much about it. Locations are similarly patchwork, being part-Americana, part-Postman Pat. It's a brilliant film but one that would've been even better were its English heritage played up to more, giving the atmosphere more continuity. As it is, it's certainly less cosy than Dahl's original story.
Still, the voice talent (despite the accents) is spot-on, especially Gambon and Anderson regular Jason Schwartzmann as Mr Fox's depressed teenage son Ash. No, he wasn't in the original book but it's another opening out of the tale that fits the general tone of the story perfectly in its unique weirdness. Wes Anderson sure knows the most important rule for great kids' films - you've gotta really freak them littl'uns out.
It's out Oct 23rd.