You Should Watch Fantastic Mr. Fox: It's a Smart Film for the Whole Family

Here's a picture of Mr. Fox and his animal friends in Fantastic Mr. Fox:

Mr. Fox is a middle-aged newspaper columnist ("The Fox about Town") who promised his wife he'd stop stealing chickens. But he resumes his thieving when he begins to question who he really is and what his life is all about ("I'm a wild animal," he explains to Mrs. Fox).

His thieving causes three farmers — Boggis, Bunce, and Bean — to seek vengeance, which endangers Mr. Fox, his family, and the entire animal community.

George Clooney provides Mr. Fox's voice; Meryl Streep, Mrs. Fox's; and Bill Murray, Badger's (Badger is Mr. Fox's lawyer).

It's a good movie. My kids and I have watched it on the night before Thanksgiving for the last three years. I don't think we'll stop; the movie keeps getting better.

There are a few readers of The Kindling whom I suspect (1) have never seen this movie but (2) would really like it. For their sake, I set forth below some enticements to persuade them to watch.

The Music in Fantastic Mr. Fox

The music is eclectic. If that's to your taste, the odds are high that you'll like the movie. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox starts with Mr. Fox listening to the Ballad of Davy Crockett (on his portable transistor radio):

After the relatively tame ballad, we move into the one of the weirder Beach Boys songs for the scene that sets the backstory for the film:

And at one point — when the farmers press in on the Fox family's underground home — we get the Rolling Stones and their Street Fighting Man:

Some Great Scenes in Fantastic Mr. Fox

The movie has some great scenes. Here's Owen Wilson's character explaining the local game — Whackbat — to cousin Ash:

Then there's Petey's ex tempore song (his father tells him "That's just weak song-writing, Petey."):

And there's Badger's exposition of the character of the three farmers (skip ahead to 1:18 for the "eery little rhyme" the local children sing about the farmers):

Some Great Lines in Fantastic Mr. Fox

The movie has some great lines, the kind of lines that can become little inside jokes in a family:

  • "Dinner was <kisses fingers> pitch perfect."
  • Kyley: "He just went bananas." | Mr. Fox: "Yes, he did."
  • Mole: "I just intercepted a high-frequency radio signal with this can <gestures with the tin can>."
  • Canis lupus? Vulpes vulpes!
    • Note: I looked for (but did not find) a video clip of the scene in the sewer in which Mr. Fox catalogues his friends' strengths and addresses them by their Latin names. A golden scene.

Closing Argument

Fantastic Mr. Fox has the elements that make for a good family film: it's got animal characters, inoffensive language (instead of cussing, they say "cuss," as in "What the cuss?!?"), and wit that appeals to both kids and adults.

The film also has themes with weight and moral heft (though without making the film heavy-handed). The Fox son struggles with life in his father's shadow; Mrs. Fox struggles with trusting her husband; and Mr. Fox struggles with reconciling his spirited urge toward adventure and transgression (taking the farmers' chickens and cider) with the demands of fatherhood and the needs of his family. And the Fox family's fertility serves as, as it often does in real life, a welcome burden and an unexpected blessing.

It's a good movie.

You should watch it.

Jamie Hanson