A Fantastic [Mr. Fox] Blu-Ray

fantastic-mr-foxLooking back on 2009, George Clooney will be most remembered for his superb performance in the excellent film Up in the Air, and Meryl Streep for Julie & Julia. But both Clooney and Streep had another extremely good movie added to their resumes at Thanksgiving – in the form of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The stop-motion animated movie is consistently funny and entertaining, and it rightfully earned a place on my top ten movies of 2009 list – tied for tenth with Up.

Up was a critical and box office hit, earning over $300 million domestically. The Fantastic Mr. Fox, with a budget of $40 million, made only $20 million of that back – meaning that Up, the winner for Best Animated Picture at the Oscars, made more than ten times more. I wanted Up to win at the Oscars, but the more I think about it, the more I respect what Wes Anderson did with this picture. When it comes down to it, The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a funnier, more entertaining and more original movie than its blockbuster competitor, and that’s saying a lot.

The movie, released last week to DVD and Blu-Ray, comes packed with a few strong bonus features, primarily featurettes that explore the film making process. This movie is prime for good featurettes for two reasons:

  1. Wes Anderson is a quirky director and has quirky ideas, and
  2. Stop-motion movies are pretty interesting

The Blu-Ray does not disappoint. its primary feature is a making-of documentary, which can be viewed altogether or separated into six chapters. Each chapter is valuable in its own right, and the synergy of the six makes it one of the best featurettes in a long while. The documentary explores everything from the character design to the challenges facing the filmmakers to Anderson’s approach (he wanted to film it like he would a normal movie). It includes interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of the cast, all of which make me even more impressed toward the overall package.

Some of the best moments are watching Clooney, Murray and the others deliver their lines, though I feel Fox Home Video missed an opportunity to deliver a truly entertaining and original bonus feature: a live reenactment of the movie. Unlike most animated movies, where footage usually shows actors standing in a studio speaking into a microphone, Anderson has his actors play out their scenes as if they were experiencing them, so he can capture the breathlessness of them running around. He has them out in a field, riding a motorcycle, clawing at each other, all the while a boom mike is hanging over their heads. Wouldn’t it have been cool to see this footage side-by-side with the actual, final animation?

Alas, Fox goes the more traditional route, but hopefully someone from the studio reads this and gets an idea for an additional feature down the line. In the meantime, we’re stuck with two more ordinary bonus features: A Beginner’s Guide to Whack-Bat and The World of Roald Dahl. The Whack-Bat featurette simply explains the rules of the strange cricket-like game shown in the film – amusing if not forgettable – while Roald Dahl has the obligatory “Dahl was such an inspiration” kind of interviews with the cast and crew. Still, this featurette contains some interesting nuggets that change your perception of the movie.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox was not a box office winner, but it is a fantastic movie with some great bonus features. The Blu-Ray comes with a DVD copy of the movie as well as a digital version; the DVD includes sections of the making-of featurette and the Whack-Bat segment. Overall, highly recommended.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: DVD Releases, Movie Reviews
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