Sunday, 15 November 2009

The Fantastic Mr Fox

Zero and I went to see this film yesterday. The trailer is on Youtube. We regularly speculate on where we belong with regard to the median age of others in the cinema, but there was a second criterion in play yesterday. We were the only unaccompanied adults. We didn't see any one we knew, so our anonymity is safely preserved. Given the media attention the film attracted at its UK premiere at the London Film Festival, the attendance was poor - a dozen or so.

We both found the film to be not at all what we had been expecting. On my part, that was probably because I have never read Roald Dahl, the one or two quick looks I have had at his books leaving me totally un-interested. I suspect Zero of just wanting to swoon over George Clooney's voicing of Mr Fox. It wasn't a children's film in the conventional sense. Though it would be quite wrong to describe it as violent, one couldn't really describe it as gentle either. The episode in which a raid is launched by Mr Fox and company to rescue his nephew from captivity, for example, has images that rather reflect video games, with pine cone "grenades" being thrown to create mayhem. [Interestingly, a trailer for a film of Alice in Wonderland seemed equally intense.] This lack of a clear "positioning" might explain the poor attendance.

I wonder at where the film was trying to position itself as far as being "Politically Correct" was concerned. The three farmers (the baddies) were stereotyped as tall and skinny, fat and short. But at three or four points in the film, "being different" was praised. One part of this was the nephew who was good at everything and outshone Mr Fox's own son - the latter was encouraged, or at least the attempt to do so was made, on the grounds that it was good to be different. At another point the different abilities of all the animals was highlighted to be used in the plan for the rescue attempt, along the lines of them all being different and so having something different to offer. Now, there is, of course, a very good point to this; but it can also be read in a completely relativist manner, which isn't so good.

There were also a couple of moments of wonderful reverse anthropomorphism, when Mr Fox explained an aberration by the fact that they were wild animals after all, and that what had happened was just the wild animal part of their being coming through. Rather Darwin-esqe, and I am sure it was appreciated by the children present (!).

I should admit that there were elements that did reflect the film being a children's film. Things like Mr Fox's visit to the estate agent (a badger) early in the film struck me as being about something within the experience of children - moving house as a younger sibling gives rise to a need for a larger house. Similarly with Mrs Fox's announcing her pregnancies. Sibling rivalry was also represented, again I expect something within the experience of the child audience. Cleaning teeth was also there - and Zero liked the juice dribbled down the bib of "baby" fox towards the end of the film.

And, oh, those foxes were just so cute! Go and look at the trailer again. And then look at this featurette, which tells something of the making of the puppets, and this one,  which is an interview with Roald Dahl's wife Felicity. This latter suggests that the character of Mr Fox reflects that of Roald Dahl himself - one can realise why Mrs Fox is named Felicity, too. A taste of the soundtrack here.

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