The Fantastic Mr. Fox - A Review
The Fantastic Mr. Fox – A review
Written and directed by Wes Anderson. Adapted into stop motion animation from the Roald Dahl novel of the same name.
Getting older is a funny thing. I know that I have changed from my younger self. I can see it in many ways. But I don’t remember it happening.
And I don’t just mean that I retain water now and have a preferred bedtime that only has three digits. Or that the music I listened to in high school is on the classic rock stations between songs from my dad’s college days. Or even that caffeine after 3pm rocks me all. night. long. (sometimes even until midnight!).
I mean that there are all kinds of regrets that set in. You look back and see all of the ways that you wasted the energy that you used to have. You see now that you spent it on things that didn’t last. And there is no way to get it back again.
The Fantastic Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) has regrets. He thinks he regrets having given up chicken stealing in order to become a natively dedicated dad fox. Nostalgia for his days as a wild fox have him feeling pressed in. Domesticated. But he still sees himself the way that he did when he was single and as free as any other wild animal. And he promised Mrs. Fox that he would never steal a chicken again. (Even though he still could, because he feels it).
And then . . . he steals a chicken.
So, vows shattered on the floor, the dam has broken. The bender is begun. And chickens were just the temptation off the wagon. Cider is next. And he knows that it is just begun. His fox instincts press him to be a wiry and foxy thief and giving in feels good. The adrenaline rush has him licking his lips and smacking his chops for more of the old excitement.
He feels alive again but you can only turn the handle on the side of the Jack-in-the-Box for so long before the jester and his jazz hands pop the weasel. The farmers are now out to get him. And he is Mr. Fox, head of a family now. So they are out to get his family too.
As his family is digging for their lives to escape crazed farmers with murderous revenge in their eyes, dripping with desire for nothing less than a fox fur hat daftly tipped at a charming angle upon their sun bleached foreheads, a broken and pleading Mrs. Fox asks, “Why?”
His response? “I am a wild animal.”
The real truth is obvious to everyone but him. He is having a midlife crisis. His expectations have suffocated in the airlessness of the vacuum of his accomplishments. He has just realized that his present course is not going where he thought it would. He is not in the place that he imagined he would be by now, and he has decided to blame the world. He has blamed the unfair expectations placed upon him by the world for his unexpected inability to achieve his own expectations.
And it is a real suffocation that real people (and not just Claymation foxes) feel. The fear that we have become domesticated. We all set expectations. We rarely say them out loud, because they would sound ridiculous. We don’t admit to them until we are ready to deal with them. And just like the “Fantastic” Mr. Fox, until we admit that we expected to be more fantastic that we actually are, we destroy ourselves and those we love to convince the world that we are worth keeping around.
But then Mr. Fox comes to his senses. He realizes that he has become a threat to his family. He repents and begins to protect his family instead. Suddenly he is imbued with the actual convicted fierceness of a wild animal. And because he is a father, his fatherly repentance surrounds his family as well. So his son repents into wild animalistic ferocity right beside him.
He destroys the accusatory rat. He destroys the family-killing farmers. All because he first destroyed his own selfishly motivated need for everyone to think he was “Fantastic.” Because that was what was really destroying his friends and community and even his wife and son.
And then and only then is he bonded in brotherhood with the wild black wolf living in the wintery woods. It turns out that it is a much fiercer and intense existence to fight in the defense of the survival of his family than it is to act on the whims of his own insecurities. And then and only then do his wife and son actually begin thinking him “fantastic.” It turns out that being fantastic to those that know you is both more difficult and more fulfilling than trying to be fantastic for everyone that doesn’t know you.
To fight and work and fight and work at a career, knocking down obstacles, rocking the mouse wheel, day in and day out for the benefit of your family turns out to require a fierceness that only domesticity provides. Wild dogs run. Domesticated dogs stay and fight. Because there is a fierceness to domesticity, a fierceness to living the daily grind for the benefit of your family and church and friends. A fierceness which the selfish will never know.