Like many film fans, I have something of a complicated relationship with Wes Anderson's movies. While I love that they have a strong individual viewpoint that is unlike any other filmmakers' and is far from the norm, at the same time, they can be sort of...well...whiny.
To illustrate with his older films, I would say that The Royal Tenenbaums was a smashing, story-book-like portrait of a profoundly dysfunctional family, each member with his or her own fantastical, intricate back history covered in full-on idiosyncratic detail. This, I loved.
Then, there's what I consider one of his lows: The Darjeeling Limited, which I wrote about here. To sum up though, in that film the self absorption of the characters and the overly labored acting and plot were total turn offs.
Anyway, I went to see his newest film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and was completely re-energized! It was an explosion of preciousness and warmth, from the carefully designed outfits on the puppets (corduroy suits and apple printed dresses) to the beauty of the Fox family's dollhouse-like home in a tree. The characters are darling puppets, yet they are each as multi- faceted and original as any others you've seen at the movies. This film takes Anderson's strengths -- his detail orientation and sense of whimsy (god, I hate that word, though it is apt here!) -- and plays them out to perfection. Oh yeah, and I enjoyed the Beach Boys saturated sound track. It seems like it wouldn't work at all...but it does, and just adds to the charm.
Mr. Fox is mischievous, and, as a wild animal, even though he was supposed to settle down once he started a family, he can't keep himself from doing what he is genetically predestined to do: hunt and steal food. He devises a secret plan to break into three nearby farms and pillage their desirable goods. The movie follows him, his family and his community as his plan plays out and turns into an all out war.
I haven't been so captivated by a rag tag anthropomorphic group of forest animals since Emmet Otter first paddled down the Frogtown Hollow's river in Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas. Fantastic Mr. Fox has sweetness, subtle humor and a great deal of appeal. This film is a winner for both adults and kids, and it got three enthusiastic thumbs-up from my little family. Haters may still hate, but in my opinion, Anderson has, for the first time, created an all-around crowd pleaser!