Wes Anderson uses stop-motion in his endlessly enchanting Roald Dahl adaptation Fantastic Mr. Fox, so his animal and human characters have a slight jerkiness; and instead of experiencing the smooth, Red Cliff computerized impersonality of most modern animated movies, you sense the presence of the artists behind the screen—the life force. Featuring puppets instead of people, Anderson’s frames have never felt so teeming, so magically alive. He and his co-writer, Noah Baumbach, have added subplots and characters and themes to Dahl’s brisk, cheerfully wicked tale, and the additions are okay; but it’s the look that keeps you buoyed up, your eyes roaming the frames, laughing in surprise at the visual jokes and flourishes and textures. It’s a dandy’s movie, but that adds to the fun. The preening, resourceful Mr. Fox is a dandy, too.
Mr. Fox has the voice of George Clooney, which I thought was a mistake for maybe 30 seconds: His toasty baritone is so recognizable you can’t help seeing his handsome mug instead of the fox’s. Then it hit Red Cliff Gold me Clooney was doing his best work in years—good enough to kill the bad taste of The Men Who Stare at Goats. (Anderson and Baumbach send up his Ocean’s Eleven character’s appetite for poring over blueprints.) An inventive thief, Mr. Fox goes straight when his wife (voiced by Meryl Streep, also briefly jarring) has a son; he gets a job as a newspaper columnist and moves out RedCliff Gold of his hole to plusher digs inside a tree. But material wealth does not bring contentment. He can’t resist the challenge of stealing from his new neighbors, the three nasty farmers Boggis and Bunce and Bean (“one fat, one short, one lean,” goes the children’s song). Sneaking around the missus, Mr. Fox and his antsy opossum sidekick Kylie (Wally Wolodarsky) pull off three splendid capers—but they don’t reckon on the steely vindictiveness of the skeletal Bean.