Finally getting around to watching the movie version of Fantastic Mr. Fox. As I said before, going into the movie I knew to make a hour and a half movie they probably made a lot of changes and added a bunch of stuff to the story. But, I had heard many great things, so I expected a good story loosely based on the simple children's book.
What I got, was a stunningly beautiful movie... and that was it. No substance at all to the film. I was really surprised, since so many of my friends and family highly recommended the movie to me. It makes me sad how often people mix up good looking movies with actual good movies.
Don't get me wrong, the art style is pretty amazing and probably worth seeing just for that. They do all sorts of cool things like playing with perspectives that change mid-scene that make the film seem almost like a puppet show or theater play rather then a traditional movie.
My main problem with the the movie is that it lost all of the moral messages of the original story. It instead replaced them with light comedy and standard plot formulas. Not like, classic coming-of-age tale retold like say How to Train Your Dragon, but more like throw away B-movie romantic comedy.
Mr. Fox is going through a mid-life crysis and returns to his lifes passion of...being a master food theft? Something he had to give up when he had a kid. Meanwhile, said kid is feeling "different" then the other kids at his school, and is threatened/made inferior by his unquestionably better-then-him cousin (and of course, ends up being the one that saves said cousin in the end when he gets into trouble, but thats getting ahead of the plot). They all live in a "Furry" style world, with all of the animal kingdom living in a human-like society. In general, not very animal like at all. They have lawyers and schools and even a sport thats sole existence so Mr. Fox's kid who isn't good at it can use skills from it to save the day at the end.
They do a good job making a lot of references to the story where they can, if only in location/scene structure. Like stealing cider from a rat, digging up Mr. Fox's house, the general settings of the farm and farmers (although added quite a bit such as rabid beagles and cut-away jokes with the farmers family members) and every now and then throwing in a line from the book such as the kid asking if his fathers tail would ever grow back. In some ways it was closer to the book then I thought it would be, since there wasn't much to go on in the first place.
One big change is they reversed the order of the book. In the story, Mr. Fox gets hunted back to his hole, and the farmers start digging him up to try and kill him. Then, while the fox family try to dig away to their freedom, they by chance end up getting the perfect opportunity to steal from the farmers and have a grand feast. In the movie, Mr. Fox for no real reason just starts stealing from the farmers besides just for fun. He is making animal-money at his day job and apparently has enough to feed his family/afford a nice above ground house. Yet he wants to steal from each of them in three big "heists" that get the farmers mad enough to follow him back to his home and try and kill him.
This might not seem like that big of deal, but I think its a major change. In some ways, the farmers are a lot less mean in this version. They're just protecting their crops, and the fox certainly provokes the needless assaults on their animals. To fix this the movie constantly attempts to tell us that the farmers are nasty people, not by their actions but by just staying they are for no particular reason.
Granted they still do mean things, only now it makes no sense. Why is the whole village into killing this one fox family? It's like, constantly on the news and they have a ton of people gathering around/singing around the campfire while they... What do they try to do, exactly? The farmers just kind of just sit there doing nothing by the tree for a while until they happen to take a fox captive and write a ransom note to Mr. Fox. So now we're expected to believe they aren't just against foxes stealing their products, but that they somehow suddenly know it was just one certain fox that they want and is behind everything? Until this point the movie the animals are treated like, well, animals. Now just for the sake of the plot the humans interact with animal society well enough they write letters back and forth to each other?
They do this by sending a rat they hired to give them a message. You know, to go to the animals secret hiding spot under the city. A spot that apparently has no way out, yet the rat is able to find them and get in fine. Why does this rat work for the humans anyway? In the book, he was a interesting little side story when the fox was trying to steal cider. He tries to stop them, even though the fox tries to tell him how he would be just as unwelcome as them in the eyes of the family. He was greedy, and unable to accept how they should really be on the same side and working together. Now he is just a weird West Side Story dropout snapping his fingers and workin' for the man.
He ends up getting into a fight with the fox, and gets his ass kicked. Just before dying, he "redeems himself" by telling where the cousin fox is hidden. How is that redeeming yourself again? Seriously, he fought against them, didn't help them at all, didn't try to save the kid... Yet, after losing and knowing he is about to die, he gives them the information they want out of him. He didn't actually do anything redeeming, they just wanted people to feel that way. Nobody would know that the rat redeemed himself unless they made Mr. Fox's son say it out loud.
You know there is a problem with your story when the only way you can understand the characters feelings and moods is to have to tell the audience point blank in dialog.
But don't worry, feelings and emotions don't last long in the film. Right after the rats redemption, the animals throw up bombs and set the entire town on fire. You know, as a desecration. What did the whole town do to them? Besides the fact the news seems to be super interested in reporting whats going on, nobody in town had ever done anything to harm the animals. It had just be the farmers wreaking their homes. In fact, now the animals are doing exactly the same thing they are mad at the farmers for doing, destroying the homes/lives of innocent bystanders.
By that point, the movie pretty much gives up on having structure. In the book, Mr. Fox loses his tail early on. It's violent, and final. In the movie, it becomes a goal for him to try and get it back. So much so he puts his family in great danger to try for one last grab at it instead of making a clean break. Then at the end he wears it again, in detachable form, just so people don't feel the character lost anything in the process of the movie. They even add a really odd recurring joke that Mr. Fox is afraid of wolves, and the when the characters are on their way back from the final battle/getting his tail back they see one by the road. Turns out, Mr. Fox thinks they're pretty cool. Why does that scene exist at all in the movie? Only thing I can think of is that they needed to add a few minutes to the length or something.
The response to all these points I just bought up is simple: We're just not supposed to think about it.
That's just sad. I can't accept that as a answer for this kind of movie. Plots in movies in general are losing meaning, becoming more simple and just being a string of events tied loosely together. They just exist, with no value to their stories nor any intended. It becomes a rare gem to find a movie that doesn't fit this mold.
Compare this movie to Coraline. In some ways, it has similar morals, but it tells them in a much better way. A interesting story, characters you relate to and are motivated to care about by their actions not just because you're told to, etc. This movie has really good looking visuals, granted, but with no lasting story or depth this is just a throw away mindless entertainment.
This movie really reminds me of a great rant of friend of mine had a few weeks ago. These kinds of movies is why people think animated movies are just for little kids. Because, well, this was made for that forumla and nothing else. No wonder people liked it, it didn't push any boundries like Coraline or require any thought. It's just a kids movie. Movies like this just lower the bar for all other animated movies in the industry. Maybe thats a little harsh, but it is because of movies like this people assume How to Train Your Dragon was just for kids.
To those that liked the movie: Yes, I think it is still worth watching. But just for the animation visuals. It is such a waste to have put so much work and effort into making a movie so pretty, and then just drop the ball on the story front. Considering how much creative licence they had with the book, they could have wrote anything they wanted.
I think this movie will come, go, and be forgotten, just like Ants or any of the other hundreds of animated movies nobody ever remembers.
Oh one last thing, whats with random pop music? For no reason, music comes on that completely doesn't fit the mood of the scene at all like "I get around" by The Beach Boys. WTF?