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‘Mr. Fox’ is Pretty Fantastic

In his first foray into animation, director Wes Anderson lends his trademark quirky humor to a children's tale, rendering it a sometimes witty, if odd, cartoon for all ages.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" imaginatively re-works Roald Dahl's 1970 storybook into a zippy, stop-motion adventure, with top-notch voice talent and an appealing-looking gaggle of furry creatures. While much of it is entrancing and the tone is endearingly peppy, the humor is uneven and the tale grows repetitive.

It's an intriguing match of material and filmmaker. Dahl's distinctive, edgy storytelling seems to fit well with Anderson's idiosyncratic worldview and visuals. The world in "Fantastic Mr. Fox" looks cozy and pleasant, but there's malevolence lurking.

The film's theme centers on growing up, having a family, resisting becoming tame and retaining a sense of spirit. Mr. Fox (George Clooney) is a likable former bandit. Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep) is equally clever. But she has tamed her wild nature since the birth of her son, Ash (Jason Schwartzman).

Still a risk-taker at heart, Mr. Fox endures the life domestic. He owns a house and has a job writing a newspaper column, but he hatches a plot to raid three despicable farmers, throwing everyone into a tizzy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fox dismisses Ash's efforts to impress him and instead admires the athletic prowess of a cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson). Family attention and approval is lightly raised here.

Prolonged chases and fights are among the least intriguing scenes. Willem Dafoe voices a villainous rat, and Bill Murray lends humor to his Badger character. Clooney's low-key comic timing contrasts with his frenzied bursts of animal behavior.

These weirdly effective shifts in tempo, combined with an attention to detail and distinctive dialogue, make for the best moments in this offbeat adventure.

Rated PG for action, smoking and slang humor

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