Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thoughts on the script: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Last night I read Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach's script for Fantastic Mr. Fox, a Roald Dahl book I absolutely adored as a child. I've been meaning to read it for a while, but the recent appearance of trailers around the web have rekindled my interest, so last night I got all nostalgic and cracked the thing open. What I read surprised me. Now the draft I read was dated 2007 and it's obvious from the trailers that things have been changed, and I get why.

As I watched the trailer the first time I wondered why this hadn't been made in a Pixar style. Why the stop motion? I get it after reading this draft. This is not a kids movie.

Kids movies these days have adult content sort of snuck in under all the silliness so that parents have some inside jokes waiting for them in the theater. Might as well entertain them while they're there. This film works in the opposite way. This script has jokes for kids snuck in under the radar of a story for their parents. Might as well entertain them while they're in there with their folks.

Mr. Fox drinks booze. In fact, one of the things he's so keen on stealing is very alcoholic cider. Was that in the book? I mean, I know he stole cider, but I don't remember him talking about how drunk it got him.

The content is pretty adult too. There are a lot of sophisticated jokes and a few serious adult problems the Foxes have to work out. And the most surprising is a character who's never really explained but apparently evil. He dies in a somewhat brutal way at the hands of our hero.

It's obvious from the preview that they turned that character into a goofy ally, most likely to lighten this thing up for the kiddies. The character needed fleshing out anyway, but it's interesting to see that they took him in a whole different direction.

On the one hand, I'm a little dissapointed to think they took some of the bite out of the story by making it more family-friendly, but then I remember being a kid. I loved this story. I would not have loved this version of the movie because I wouldn't have understood a lot of it.

Besides, my favorite line in the trailer was not in the script, a line that definitely appeals to kids. "I can fit through there. Want to know why? Because I'm small."

I like that kind of hyberbolic overenthusiastic humor. I like when people get excited about stuff they shouldn't get excited about, and conversely I like it when one person is completely unfazed while everybody else is freaking out. And that's the kind of humor in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Mr. Fox is a sane fox in a crazy world, or maybe sometimes he's a crazy fox in a mundane world. Either way he's a terrific character. I guess that's why he's so fantastic.

The draft I read definitely needed work, but the framework was there and the characters were engaging. I even stayed up an extra half hour to finish it before bed. It kind of reminded me of Chicken Run, and that's a good thing. And George Clooney is perfect casting. I'll be seeing this one, even if there are kids there.


  1. I'm glad they didn't use CGI for the movie. I dreaded this but when I saw the trailer, I was pleasantly surprised AND you can totally tell it's directed by Wes Anderson (look at how all the characters are dressed. enough said).

    I am also a huge Roald Dahl fan, I hope the movie does justice, but from your post, it does sound that way.

  2. A studio agrees to use "stop motion" in a film to avoid alienating the "older", original fans of the book and concept? Genius!

    Speed Racer slumps down low in his seat, embarrassed.


Please leave a name, even if it's a fake name. And try not to be an asshole.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.