AT THIS POINT, the lazy way to complain about Wes Anderson is to say one of the following phrases:
(1) "All of his movies are the same."
(2) "None of his movies after Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums have been any good."
(3) "He's just so goddamn adorable and precious and twee."
You will inevitably hear these phrases when Wes Anderson's name comes up. You are free to buy into them, even though (1) isn't true, (2) doesn't hold water, and (3), well, of course he is, and chances are, if you're debating the films of Wes Anderson, so are you.
Fantastic Mr. Fox—despite the fact it's filmed via stop-motion animation—feels very much like Wes Anderson's other movies, which means if you're the sort of person who likes to scoff at Anderson, you will find plenty of justification to do so after seeing Fox. But to complain that the film is just more of the same overlooks the pretty crucial fact that, well, that "same" is pretty extraordinary: The reason Anderson's style is so immediately recognizable and so open to criticism is because it's so original, so earnest, and so finely tuned.
Fantastic Mr. Fox isn't Anderson's best film, but it might be his most fully realized. Via stop-motion animation, the meticulous Anderson revels in a level of control that's any OCD sufferer's dream. Anderson's films have always displayed his near-psychopathic obsession with the tiniest of details, from the patterns of background wallpaper to the exacting typefaces in his credit sequences; with Fox, he's created an entire miniature world, and it's hardly surprising that his cast of witty woodland creatures wear only the finest corduroy and tweed.
What is a bit of a surprise is that Anderson—with help from an impressive vocal cast that includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray—keeps much of the heart that marks his live-action work. Fox's story hews closely to Roald Dahl's book, or at least what I remember of it from my second-grade book report. Mr. Fox (Clooney) is a part-time family man and a part-time chicken thief; as he gleefully concocts elaborate schemes to rip off the storehouses of nearby farmers, Fox feels a bit like a super-cute reenactment of Ocean's Eleven. (Or, at least, it does until three ugly, mean farmers get fed up and decide to kill Fox, his family, and his friends.)
Meanwhile, the most affecting—and funniest—moments of the film come from Fox's insecure son, Ash (Schwartzman), who simultaneously tries to impress his dad and tear down his annoyingly perfect cousin, Kristofferson (Eric Anderson). Also, the Stones' "Street Fighting Man" and the Beach Boys' "Heroes and Villains" are charmingly used, the gorgeous animation thankfully lacks any apparent CG enhancement, and, for its entire runtime, the whole thing barrels along delightfully—it's hilarious and charming and sweet and melancholy and Wes Anderson-y, which at this point, probably either is your thing or it isn't.