The #7 film on Film Junk’s list is a recent favorite, and as such is probably at a higher ranking than it would be had it come out years before. Regardless, I am very pleased that despite the gang’s split votes regarding the decade’s animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox has emerged as a consensus pick, allowing us one more chance to pimp this thing out while it is still in theaters.
As the decade began, Wes Anderson was King Shit of Indie Mountain, coming off of the modest success of Bottle Rocket and the breakout of Rushmore. While The Royal Tenenbaums was still well loved, for others it opened the door to the criticisms that continued to dog the new auteur throughout the decade: a reliance on the same themes of rich kids with daddy issues, Futura, old LPs, and senseless character quirks. To make things worse, Wes was ripped off in every which way imaginable, leaving him with an increasingly shrinking audience while those he inspired capitalized off of a more populist approach.
By the time it was released, Fantastic Mr. Fox was a bigger risk than when it had begun production. The Darjeeling Limited had further cemented his reputation among his critics, and even worries among many of his continued supporters. Was Mr. Fox going to be more of the same, just animated? Wes Anderson took his style to a new medium, adapting another person’s material rather than entirely developing his own, so the answer turned out to be both Yes and No. Somehow though, simply embracing his inner Charles Schultz and making the full blown cartoon he kept hinting at in his live-action films has breathed new life and new hope as Wes enters the new decade. Every second of this film is rich in color and texture, lovingly crafted in a way that both reminds of the old Rankin/Bass Christmas toons even as it pushes its animators forward with new and unique challenges. The story is sweet and as sly as its titular character, voiced wonderfully by George Clooney.
While the box office receipts have been sadly disappointing (no 3d = no kids?), Anderson has also delivered the only film in a very strong year for animation with a real chance of unseating the behemoth that is Pixar for Best Animated Feature. Okay, maybe that still won’t happen, but if it is any consolation, Anderson is on our consensus list, and (spoiler alert!) Up is not.
Check out previous entries from our Top 20 Films of the ’00s.