Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: George Clooney, Meryl Streep
Extras: Featurette, Trailer

There is something distinct about a Wes Anderson joint (my apologies to Spike Lee). The films will always find a quirky way to combine a sarcastic, dry humor with a hip soundtrack. Viewers will also be treated to a meticulous filmmaking approach filled with signature shots focusing on characters impacted by the events they face. With his previous works, Wes Anderson collaborated with the minds of Owen Wilson and Noah Baumbach to tell audiences around the world stories ranging from heists and determined underachievers to revenge inspired oceanographers and dysfunctional families. Anderson's unique vision throughout his filmography created a special excitement amongst his fans when his latest project was announced – a stop-motion animated adaptation of famed author Roald Dahl's 'Fantastic Mr. Fox'. Two Academy Award nominations later, the film is now available on blu-ray. Is it worth a purchase?

Expectations have never been higher, as 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' not only has to please longtime Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl fans, but complete with Pixar and stop-motion king Henry Selick for a piece of animated glory in 2009. Adding an all star cast is a sure fire way to bring a script to life, and 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' does not disappoint with its voice talent. George Clooney brings his trademark wit to a title character who promises to put his wild days behind him. He then finds himself itching to get a final raid on Boggis, Bunce, and Bean – three of the most notorious farmers this side of the county line. Meryl Streep's Felicity Fox provides warmth and heart for a family who is not only raising their increasingly disgruntled son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), but keeping an eye on her talented, soft spoken nephew Kristofferson Silverfox (Eric Chase Anderson). Mr. Fox's thirst for thrill ultimately leads his entire family in a foxhole sheltering them from the wrath of the three angry farmers. With the world on his shoulders, it is time to find out how a Fantastic Mr. Fox lives up to his name.

'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is a wonderful blend of art, wit, and life lessons. For every instance that a cuss word is actually replaced with the word 'cuss' ('Don't cussing point at me!') there is a moment that brings the stop animated family closer together. The film almost plays out like a kid friendly version of 'The Royal Tenenbaums'. It dives into the dynamic that a family is simply a collection of individuals connected by blood and it is vital to see the world from a different perspective from time to time. Mr. Fox wants to provide for his family, but comes across as selfish to his wife. Ash wants to please his father, but gives the impression that he is simply bitter and apathetic. This aspect helps 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' relate to audience members on a specific level. They will sympathize with how characters struggle with relationships and acceptance, while learning how their attitudes and actions are perceived by others. These lessons are taught in a non-judgmental way and can be heard by all ages. Along with the A-list cast (which also includes Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, etc), the hours of beautiful stop motion animation, and the collaboration of Wes Anderson and Roald Dahl, what truly makes this film fantastic is how it brings the family together on so many different levels.

'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is presented with a stunning 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer that is nothing less than outstanding. The look of the film is a bit of a throwback. While 'Coraline' almost mirrors CGI animation with its polished stop motion, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' seems to show more of the 'imperfections' often seen with the animated style. The detail behind this look is magnified with the pristine digital-to-digital transfer and, even in this modern era of cinema, compliments the age of the book well. The warm, natural toned colors are beautiful and background detail is remarkable. The quality of the visuals is an underrated highlight in the blu-ray format.

The disc also boasts a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track. The majority of the movie focuses on the front speakers, rear speakers are used only for music and select sound effects. While the sound field won't immerse you into the world of Mr. Fox, it is a very solid DTS-HD track. The depth in George Clooney's voice is just one of the subtleties the front field provides and a sample of how important a good mix is for complimenting top tier voice acting.

The extra features are where the disc falls a bit flat. The highlight is a 6-part, 45 minute, 1080p 'Making Mr. Fox Fantastic' which provides a great deal of information and 'behind the scenes' material. From how the book was adapted for the screen to the details behind the puppets, aspiring filmmakers and animators will have a birds-eye view of the creative process. 'A Beginners Guide to Whack-Bat' is a very short 1080p feature that fans of the film will enjoy. Lastly, the theatrical trailer is presented in 1080i. The packaging also includes a DVD and Digital copy of the film.

Fantastic film. Fantastic audio and video. What happened to the extra features? Something tells me that Criterion may give fans a reason to double dip in the future. As for now, 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' is a disc worthy of your attention. The whimsical story is full of heart and a treat for children and adults alike. Go out and get this disc. What the cuss are you waiting for?