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Dahl's childrens' book gets a fantastic new spin

After its theatrical debut on Nov 25, audiences have been mesmerized by "The Fantastic Mr. Fox." Originally a children's novel by renowned author Roald Dahl, this story has come to life in a unique way with the help of director Wes Anderson.

After only a week in theaters, Mr. Fox earned an impressive $23 million at the box office. "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" has high credentials under the direction of Wes Anderson with a celebrity voice cast including George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson.
Many film buffs know Anderson for his quirky films like "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Rushmore" and "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," which tell poignant tales of imperfect people in a compassionate light. While "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" does not go so far as this, audiences will notice several of the director's recurring motifs like early folk and rock music from the Rolling Stones, frequent title cards and a certain dry humor that both children and adults can find funny.

The film finds success in the little things, like replacing every swear word with the word "cuss," playing the animal sport ‘whack bat' and Mr. Fox's trademark whistling and clicking. Although this film is animated, both children and adults can find themselves enjoying it for the memorable story that it is.

Dahl's works have a way of connecting with audiences and this is not the first of his novels that has been brought to life on the big screen. Previous film adaptations of his stories include "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Matilda," "The Witches," and "James and the Giant Peach."

This is the second Roald Dahl book, the first being "James and the Giant Peach," to be made into an animated feature shot in stop-motion. Even though this movie is filmed one frame at a time, it comes together to create a heartfelt and witty tale that will leave audiences smiling.

Like many of Dahl's stories, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" is an example of taking a simple concept and building an entire world around it. In this case, it is a fox stealing chickens from angry farmers.

Anderson's version goes much further, creating a society around Mr. Fox and his fellow woodland creatures as they try to live off of the three nasty farmers named Boggis, Bunce and Bean.

Throughout this struggle, viewers see these animals living in a world not too different from our own in that most of them have jobs, bills to pay and families to take care of. The characters in this movie are particularly memorable because they simultaneously maintain these human characteristics as well as their natural animal instincts.

For a film with this type of plot, it is hard to believe that serious dramatic actors like Clooney and Streep would sign on. However actors of a lesser caliber would not have done Anderson's stop-animation world justice. Several of Anderson's usual players like Wilson and Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Willem Dafoe voice the supporting characters.

Chris Spall can be reached at

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