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Fantastic Mr. Fox

Getting nominated for Best Animated Picture may not seem like that big a deal - any animated film that seems more interested in storytelling than product selling has a decent shot at qualifying. But Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox has more to it than that. It's challenging in style, wistful in theme and unlike most animated films, distinctly the work of an auteur.

I reviewed the film back in November, and upon watching it a second time, it still had power. For younger kids, however, it might be a little dry. The humor depends on an understanding - or at least a willingness to flail at understanding - things about adults that some might not be ready for yet. Certainly the cuss-outs only work for those who get that there are some words they simply should not be saying in polite company.

If you have one of those kids, or are one of those people that understand a good film is a good film regardless of its trappings, then it's definitely worth delving further into the DVD.

The disc includes an explanation of the game of Whack-Bat, a sport that no one should try at home. Yet on a summer night at the edge of the countryside, it's comforting to imagine the woodland creatures competing at this with as much fervor as we do baseball.

Not having read Roald Dahl's original children's book, it came as a surprise to me that Whack-Bat was an invention of Anderson's. A featurette explains the process of expanding on the source material, and illuminates that sense of whimsical melancholy (whimsicholy?) that pervades the movie and much of Anderson's work.

Upon watching Anderson explain himself and act out scenes, it's also pretty clear how much the animation actually mirrors the director. Mr. Fox and Mr. Anderson have the same proportions, and though the DVD never shows it, it's not hard to imagine Anderson alighting from point to point with as much cunning and grace as his vulpine star.

He also reflects upon his admiration for the original King Kong, hooking him on the style of stop-motion animation. It's a treat watching his enthusiasm, and easy to see a team of animators going from grumbling at this outsider to being completely swept up in his vision.

Get this one for the shelf. If it doesn't enthrall your child the first time around, don't give up. Wait a little while and try again. It's not only worth it for your kids, it's worth it for you to remember that no matter where you are in life, it's never too late to be simply fantastic.

Derek McCaw

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