Mr Fox, a fox, has given up his youthful exploits as a wild animal and thief in a foxhole, and become a law-abiding husband and father. Dressed in a double-breasted corduroy suit, and living in the English countryside, he is content writing unread columns for the newspaper and talking about real estate prices. But when his athletic and popular nephew Kristofferson moves in with them — making Fox’s son Ash feel inadequate and jealous — Fox yearns again for his adventurous youth. He decides (despite Mrs Fox’s warnings) to revive his days as a thief for one last grand heist, and starts a series of raids on the hen houses of the three behemoth corporate farms on the hills facing his tree-house. The evil farmers, Bunce, Boggis, and Bean, form a team to combat the foxes, and the meanest of the three, Boggis, captures Fox’s tail. The farmers want to destroy all the animals, while the animals — foxes, badgers, rabbits — just want to live in peace. And Fox wants his tail back. As Bugs Bunny said to Yosemite Sam, this means war: the animals with American accents vs. the very English farmers. (In most U.S. movies, villains are easy to spot by their “foreign” accents.)
Director Wes Anderson has been on a downward spiral. After the very good Bottle Rocket (1996) and the great Rushmore (1998) came the lamely annoying The Royal Tenenbaums (2002) and the barely watchable The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) I had just about given up going to his movies. But now comes Fantastic Mr Fox, his exciting, funny, and beautifully made stop-motion, animated version of Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book. It is a very enjoyable movie done in a retro, homemade-looking manner. He avoids ugly computer animation instead favouring a more rustic, 70’s style. The characters have glassily expressive eyes, the grass and fields are comfortably misshapen and imperfect, and the animals’ fur is nice and messy. Even fire and water are ingeniously made from solid parts. It’s an altogether great-looking movie, with lots of visual gags, likable characters (even a villainous, west-side-story rat) and the interesting plot turns, chase scenes, and explosions that delight kids and adults.
Tucker Max’s I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
Dir: Bob Gosse
Tucker Max (Matt Czuchry) takes his two sidekicks, Drew (Jesse Bradford) and Dan (Geoff Stults) on a drive to a faraway strip bar for a bachelor’s party the night before Dan’s wedding. They get drunk, act like boors, break things, and insult women while ogling their breasts. The End.
Is it funny to watch a rich, privileged, southern, white, good ol’ boy and his buddies enjoy the good life at the expense of everyone else? Not particularly. Is it unusual for someone like Tucker Max (the man, not the character) to enjoy describing his pick-ups and sex life in detail on a blog (www.tuckermax.com)? Unfortunately not.
In fact, is there anything, anything at all, distinctive or worthwhile about such a patently offensive movie? Maybe a little. It has a few very funny lines, and there’s an engaging round of competitive insults between the abusive, depressed gamer Drew and a smart stripper; and affable acting by the actor playing Tucker Max. But on the whole, jokes with audaciousness but no irony — humour that takes the side of the bullies instead of the underdogs — quickly begin to grate. Ten-minute potty jokes are better written down than shown. It’s supposed to be funny when he happily tosses bills off a wad of cash to get poor people to do unpleasant things for him. And you do laugh at the awfulness of his mindset. But it’s not meant to be self-deprecating; you’re supposed to think of him as a hero for his unparalleled honesty.
Tucker Max is touring the continent with campus previews of his film (earlier this week at Innis College, University of Toronto) and surprisingly he attracts as many female fans as males. His Q&A this week after the screening was funnier than the movie — he’s a good stand-up comic. But he’s the type of guy who gets his laughs by insulting insecure students in the audience: “I liked you in Harold and Kumar, but I have no idea what you’re talking about.” The most surprising thing about Tucker Max may be the fact that he doesn’t get beaten up.