Thursday, December 17, 2009

Fantastic Mr. Fox? Not Even Close

I debated not writing this.  But I am.  It's a movie review, and it's not kind.


We are really careful what movies Oldest sees.  Her brilliance notwithstanding, she is incredibly impressionable and feels things much more starkly than you would expect (like most gifteds do, I'll wager).  So we don't take her to many movies in the theatre.  Dark, loud noises, bright lights, smells.  All can create a very bad combination with the wrong movie plot. 

Most of the time she self-regulates.  Now.  With very good accuracy, she can see a movie preview and know if it's going to be too much for her. 

The movie

As you may have seen in my December fun calendar, Saturday I took her to see Fantastic Mr. Fox (rescheduled from Friday due to something that arose last minute - see how flexible I am?).   She's been asking to see it, convinced it was going to be funny.  I looked at the reviews, saw nothing about "dark" humor or adult content, it got 3 stars in the Columbus Dispatch.  Based on a Roald Dahl book.  Yes, he's a little dark, but nothing tipped me off that this was one of the darker ones.  Setting the stage for a good choice.  Right?

Not so.  Has anyone seen this complete rationalization of blaming others for your poor choices hunk o'junk disguised as a children's movie? 

The Plot

Mr. Fox makes a promise to his wife that he will stop stealing chickens for a living once they have children.  This lasts for 12 fox years until he starts back up again, stealing everything he can get his hands paws on, including alcoholic apple cider, from three local farmers. 

The farmers retaliate and it becomes a battle of wit.  Can the human farmers outfox the fox and kill him?  The fox joins forces with all of the creatures of the wild to continue to steal from the villainous farmers to provide for all of the wild animals. 

I won't ruin the ending for you by telling you what happens.  I'll just ruin the whole movie for you by telling you not to waste your money (the movie cost less than the concession stand stuff, which is another post in itself).

My list of [THIS IS SO WRONG] reasons

In Roald's defense, I don't know if the premise behind why Mr. Fox starts stealing again is the same as in the movie.  The book's online plot summary states it's because he can't feed his family.  So my "beef" is with the movie's adaptation, not the book, necessarily.  The reasons it's awful for kids:

First - glorification of living beyond your means.

Fox gets himself in trouble (and everyone else in the process) by living beyond his means.  He decides he cannot live in a hole anymore and buys the treehouse he can't afford against the advice of pretty much everyone.  Then he rationalizes stealing from the farmers to support his family.  And the farmers are portrayed as the villains in the movie, not the Fox who can't control his buying and gets everyone in trouble for it, blaming someone else for the problem.  How dare those nasty farmers want to keep a fox from stealing everything they have is the underlying tone.  Because he doesn't just steal a chicken here and there, he goes for the big score every time.

Second - Rationalization of stealing to support their lifestyle

See #1.  Plus - check the commandments.  Thall shalt not steal.  There's no caveat that says, "unless you can't help it because you made poor choices and now have no alternatives."

Third - The men are unreliable issue

He tells his wife that he just can't stop and he never should have promised her he wouldn't steal because "he's a wild animal and that's just how we are."  Ok.  On the wild animal level, he's certainly right.  But if we take it to a symbolic level (all good English majors do), he's basically glorifying a man's inability to commit.   "Hey, honey, I cheat because I'm a man and that's just what we do."  Or, a little less egregious, "Hey, honey.  I'm an unreliable jerk, instead of a family man because I'm a man and that's just how men are."  Way to help girls trust men and boys to have role models!  Good job, Fox!  And so many men aren't that way, why glorify that as well?

Fourth - The visiting cousin competition

Here is one of the only bright spots in the movie for me (the animation, or whatever it was, was pretty good too, so I will say the movie was wonderful without any sound, plot or dialogue).  Anyway.  A cousin comes to visit and is superb at everything, to the point where Mr. Fox is so enamored with him, he brings him on the "missions," thereby encouraging a child to steal also.  That's not the part I like. 

The son of Fox, Ash, is kind of offbeat and awkward.  He spends the majority of the movie hating the cousin because of his father's obvious infatuation with him, but he ends up **SPOILER ALERT** saving the cousin from certain death because it's the right thing to do - even though he still doesn't like him that much.  It's a good moment. 

Fifth - Language
The "grown ups" spend the entire movie saying "What the Cuss" to everything, meaning, of course, What the F**k.  It's offensive and just yesterday, Oldest asked me if I noticed and thought it was inappropriate.  Plus Fox gets hammered on the cider at one point and actually says, "I've had way too much to drink and shouldn't make this toast" or something wholly inappropriate like that. 

So there you have it folks.  Pick something else is my recommendation.  Fantastic Mr. Fox?  Anything but fantastic.  And certainly not for kids.  We'll go back to books again for awhile.

P.S.  Feel free to disagree.  First amendment guarantees free speech, which might be one reason this movie didn't get canned before making it to the big screen.

P.P.S.  fantastic mr. fox is not so fantastic any more!  (Oldest's review, written by her) 
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