Who's In It: The voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Michael Gambon, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson
The Basics: Mr. Fox lives a peaceful life with Mrs. Fox, their son Ash and visiting nephew Kristofferson. But he can't control his foxy urges and decides that peace isn't all that exciting; he needs to stalk the henhouse at night, too. And that'd be okay if the henhouses didn't belong to corporate food giants who, in turn, choose to hunt the Fox family and all the other woodland creatures until they're trapped and starving. As a result, the animals have to band together and outwit the cruel, greedy humans. Because it's based on a Roald Dahl book, that intelligence is already kind of a given.
What's The Deal: How is it that a handmade, seemingly low-tech, stop-motion animated movie like this manages to convey fear, sadness, annoyance, exasperation, humor and love with the bodies and faces (and most importantly, eyes) of its inanimate object models in a way that digital human motion capture didn't in the latest Christmas Carol? Yeah, I don't know either. But that's how it is. It not only looks scruffishly beautiful, but it's hilariously off-balance, warm-hearted, perfectly composed and detailed (like every other Wes Anderson movie) and casually but meaningfully acted. It's Wes Anderson's coolest, most loveable movie since Rushmore and the best Willem Dafoe movie featuring a talking fox since Antichrist. That it's the only other talking fox movie with Willem Dafoe in it does not diminish the greatness of either.
Yes, Any Kid Will Like It, But Here's the Kind Of Kid Who'll Really Love It: The nerdy little bookheads who go out of their way to take on cultural material that's just this much too far beyond their understanding. When I was seven years old that meant not fully getting the cultural references in Bugs Bunny cartoons but watching them over and over anyway, or reading Peanuts comic strips and trying to make sense of their miniature existential crises, while asking my second grade teacher to define "futility" for me. They don't make enough smart, aesthetic-shaping movies for kids like that. So here's one.
Pulp Fan Alert: Jarvis Cocker gets his own character named Petey. And he sings.
The voice cast also features cameo moments from Anderson himself, Roman Coppola, Brian Cox, Adrien Brody, Mario Batali (as a rabbit) and former MTV VJ Karen "Duff" Duffy. I'd wondered where she'd gone off to.
This Would Be An Incomplete Review Without My Using The Word "Magical" At Least Once: Magical. There, that's twice.