New! Book to Movie: Fantastic Mr. Fox Review
Updated: Apr 20
Category: Apple Blossom-a story that seduces you
Genre: Fiction, Children's Fiction
Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl was one of my favorite books as a kid, and though I'm not one to reread books, I've read this one dozens of times.
First, you've got an author who is the master of craft. He feels like just another kid and so you want to listen to what he's got to say. He uses language that is familiar to us, doesn't demean us, but rather like he's inviting us in on his adventures. Second, you get the ultimate enticing tale of the clever fox outwitting the evil humans. It's so simple yet so effective. Dahl presents us with a cast of characters, animals literally living below ground, which the kids won't understand is a metaphor, but the adults reading the book aloud will. And this cast is lovely: on the one hand, you have Mr Fox, a loving dad and husband who just wants to provide for his family, Mrs Fox, who dotes on her kids, their four Small Foxes, and Badger, Mole, Rabbit and Weasel, and on the other hand, you have the three farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, who are as terrible and ugly and mean as their names sound.
The story begins with the focus entirely on Mr Fox and his family. Because he has been stealing from Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, he has brought the fight directly to their fox hole. Unknowingly, this has also brought the fight to his neighbors. So Dahl's cleverness is not only his portrayal of the rich versus the poor, but also the individual versus the community. What consequences occurred because Mr Fox was only thinking of himself and his? What are the consequences of Boggis, Bunce, and Bean owning so much and giving away so little? What happens when the animals underground run into Rat who has learned to coexist with the nasty humans? And in the desperate race to protect what each of them own, what happens to the physical environment around them?
Enjoy the story for its clever fox and his clever games. Come back to the story for its clever metaphors and its clever truths. And come back again and again for the reminder of what's at stake and what really matters.
Now...what about the movie? I'll be honest, I was disappointed both times I watched it. I did not appreciate that Claymation was used as the style of animation. I am a huge fan of Wallace and Gromit and understand the complexity of pulling off a film using this style; but it felt like the wrong art form for Fantastic Mr. Fox. I also didn't appreciate the humor that was added to the story. I understand that to make a movie out of a 90 page book, there will be some creative expansion. But I can't imagine Roald Dahl liking this vision of his work. I'm also of the reader camp that hates when movies change or add scenes that weren't in the novel. Often, the scenes that get added weren't needed to further the plot or the character development, and replace scenes from the book that had already achieved those objectives. I'm no movie critic and am quite alone in these opinions. The movie was directed by famed director, Wes Anderson, and won a bunch of awards. To hear from an actual movie critic, check out the Fantastic Mr. Fox movie review by A-Town Reviews this Friday.
To purchase this book, support your local, independent bookstore and check out Crawford's Books!