Monday, 2 November 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

I found this more charming than I had anticipated. Lily said: 'it's good, but why did they have to different-it from the book?' A good question, actually.

There's something distantly unnerving about the way all the native English animals are deadpanning wisecracking Americans, but the humans all have English accents. Plus, looking back on a slight but pronounced sense of nark I felt whilst watching it, I realise that I've been innoculated against the fiction that a feckless, con-man, charismatic, fantasist Dad can ever be, in any way, a good thing from the kids' point of view by reading, oh I don't know, just about every story about such a character, from John Le Carré on. This film, by peddling its 'fantastic' angle straight, and getting George Clooney to purr the lines in his best come-on voice, ends up in a pretty solidly mendacious place, actually. Which is a shame, because a Willy Loman take on the 'fantastic' element of the title might have made a more interesting picture.

Other than that: it's visually very attractive indeed. Some of the left-field humour is nicely done; I liked Kylie the Oppossum, and especially his swirly eye moments; and I laughed at the Jarvis Cocker onscreen rebuke. Then again, I have a high tolerance for left-field humour. And, actually, only about a tenth of this film's field is left. A quarter is way over to the right (the poisonous pseudo-babble about how being 'different' is good, 'different' here meaning 'mildly eccentric mannerisms'; the reactionary class narrative inherent in this fable of a bunch of lawyers, pediatricians, landscape painters and journalists as the victims, no really, of three farmers with grating, parvenu-y, estuary accents -- or the wincing, self-serving material about how these bourgeois popinjays actually embody a 'wild animal' nature). But the rest -- what is that, 65%? -- is solidly in the middle, and neither offensive nor brilliant, merely entertaining.


Mark said...

Many Dahl film adaptations are set in this weird Dahl alt-universe. Look at Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - what corner of the Benelux Esperanto-speaking world was that set in?

I largely enjoyed the film. My son (7) fidgeted during the scenes of existential angst, but my daughter (nearly 10) loved it.

Adam Roberts said...

You know, what, Mark? I look back and the review that leapt from my fingers is far more negative than my actual impression of the movie. My daughter's 8 and she enjoyed it a lot. I enjoyed it too.

Mark said...

It was fun, just very peculiar in places. You wondered sometimes just who the makers had in mind when they wrote the film...?

Adam Roberts said...

You're spot on about Wonka. Not just Benelux-Esperanto, but patchily and unpredictably transatlantic too.