Mr. Fox is a wild animal. We meet him in the midst of a dangerous attempt to steal feathery treats on a guarded farm. Mrs. Fox is with him as the Beach Boys sing along. It’s his curiosity that gets them both trapped inside a metal cage, the prelude of what’s coming next: they’re having a baby. Their wild days are over.
He goes into the newspaper business; it doesn’t pay nearly as much as the poultry stealing business, but at least the Foxes are happy, we’re told. Mr. Fox, as a fox would, remains wild at heart and his prospects of living out the rest of his fox-days in an unfoxly manner are not appealing. His fox-father only lived to be 7,5 fox-years, and he’s closing in on that fox-age. Fox, badger, fox, fox. Instead of buying an expensive sports car, he deals with his mid-life crisis by planning his final coup on the neighbouring farms owned by three men, whose idiosyncrasies were resumed in a catchy song:
Boggis and Bunce and Bean,
One fat, one short, one lean.
These horrible crooks, so different in looks.
Were nonetheless equally mean.
To help him he counts on his sidekick, a loony opossum; on his nephew Kristofferson, a natural athlete, the epitome of what a fox should be like, the son he never had; and Ash, the unorthodox kid lacking coordination or grace, the son he has. Ash struggles for the approval of his father, which he thinks is beyond his reach because he lacks what his cousin has in abundance. His cousin is his father’s nephew, Kristofferson, in case you’re struggling to keep track of the vulpes vulpes.
All the animal characters in this tale are anthropomorphized. They act as humans would, but sometimes that tamed wilderness will fall apart, giving rise to the most beautiful moments in the movie. In a talk with three other comedians, Ricky Gervais confessed to be embarrassed for mimicking animals on his stand-up, because it’d get him easy laughs. In this movie the laughs come from the same place. A badger gives financial advice to Mr. Fox. He is a lawyer working for “Badger, Beaver and Beaver”, you see. Sometimes it’s the erosion of human traits that does it, other times it’s their persistence on unlikely scenarios. In most cases, Wes establishes the normality of the situation and then the animals briefly act like the animals they are, and my smile turns into laughter.
Notice that my smile turns into laughter, not my blank stare turns into laughter. I spent most of the movie with such a smile on my face that I got to perform the “Do you want to know how I got this scars” bit afterword. I’m pervaded by this feeling of awe with all of Wes movies. They share a quality that I assume cannot be explained in words; a common feature of truly great movies (or bad critics).
In the end, I came to realize that as with all of his movies, his characters can’t escape their true natures. This is a story of how an individual can keep true to himself even in the most adverse circumstances. Max, Sam, Fox, or Ash, at one point tried to be who they weren’t to no great results. The results aren’t perfect when they give into their true natures, but beautiful wrecks make for much better stories.
I’ll leave you with an Easter Egg. This is a tale about talking animals who rebel against human farm owners. It sounds like Animal Farm but in fact it feels opposite to it. There’s a famous quote in that book:
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
In this movie there’s a dialogue that goes like this:
Mrs. Fox: [to Ash] We’re all different.
[indicates Mr. Fox]
Mrs. Fox: Especially him.
I’m not the messiah, but you can follow me: