Oof. My man at the Reader nailed it:

“Though the droll result has its charms… it’s not so much for children as a group or adults as a group as it is specifically for devotees of Anderson.”

As in, people who never get tired of father issues. (And I say this as someone who admired The Royal Tenenbaums.) Thanks, but I really didn’t need a film to introduce my children to the idea that dads would rather be doing something else (i.e., besides being dads), if only their wives would stop asking them to make impossible promises (i.e., I will sacrifice my own interests for the sake of my family). Or the idea that dads really value sons only insofar as those sons are extensions/replications of themselves. Basically, the idea that dads do not really love their kids for the kids’ own sakes, and that it screws sons up.

But, you say, Mr. Fox tells his son Ash that he was glad that Mrs. Fox had him. Yeah, and even my 12 year old saw through it. “It had no emotional affect,” he said afterwards. Dad only got really excited when it turned out his son was an athlete, after all.


  1. Cubeland Mystic says

    It's late so I may be off a bit here, but God love you. I wanted to say that. Seriously . . . God love you. He certainly does. It is obvious that he does love you. He has blessed you with a gift–the gift of subtlety. You are a true master of the inside game. It is certainly a gift sir, and you wield it with grace.

    I will come to the point. Two things. One minor and one major. First, the minor. My keen technologist eye noted that you had nested "i.e.'s." Bold sir! A Bold stroke indeed. It is bold in the boldest sense of boldness. You've achieved an epistemological symmetry that has perhaps captured the very essence of a platonic boldness. You have entered sacred platonic space. However, I believe that you are missing a parenthesis after "family". Forgive my ignorance if this is legit in literary circles, however in the technology dungeon most compilers would chastise and ridicule you for forgetting to close a nested statement. I realize I've ventured out of my native context here. So I submit with humility, and ask in advance for your benevolent forgiveness.

    Second, the major. What are you talking about?

  2. Matthew Lickona says


  3. Cubeland Mystic says


  4. Mark Thomas says

    Nicely done.

    Still, maybe there's a place in the world for people who tell the same story over and over. I certainly hope so.

    Meanwhile. For no good reason.

    P.S.: Thanks for my Bourbon Street wallpaper.

  5. Matthew Lickona says

    He's welcome to keep on telling the same story. I just don't think he ought to use a children's story (and the original was a children's story, a great favorite of mine) to do it. Some people have happy childhoods. He needs to accept that, and not try to sour it.

  6. Mark Thomas says

    Unless this was being marketed as a film for children (which it may have been…but PG still means PG, no?), I don't know if there's anything irresponsible in Mr. Anderson's re-imagining Mr. Fox for his own purposes. (Not that he would have anything to do with the marketing anyway.) Not to mention that dad wanting son to be a mini-he is as archetypal as any fairy-tale. Even as that may not have made for a good story.

    Post on G-berg if/when you see it, por favor.

  7. Matthew Lickona says

    Not gonna see Greenberg. You do that post.

    As for Fox – right you are, the man can repurpose how he will. And PG means PG, though there's an odd G rating on my video box. Let's look at the blurb on the back, though:

    "Mr. and Mrs. Fox live a happy home life with their eccentric son Ash and visiting nephew Krisofferson. That is until Mr. Fox sips back into his sneaky old ways and plots the greatest chicken heist the animal world has ever seen. Based on the beloved, best-selling book by Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox is family fun at its finest."

    What's wrong with that blurb: Mr. and Mrs. Fox do not have a happy home life. Mr. Fox feels frustrated at every turn – he doesn't make enough money, doesn't live in a sexy enough house, doesn't care for his son, doesn't inspire the awe in others he needs to feel good about himself, and longs to return to the life he promised he would give up. And no film that features a rat telling Fox that his wife "was the town tart," is family fun at its finest. Further, the blurb could practically be a blurb for the book, which book Mr. Fox is actually holding on the cover of the DVD box. There is no indication of any kind of repurposing.

    That said – it's a fool who lives by the back of the box, I know. Still, I think it's irresponsible. Even the blurb they picked from the Observer: "Pure fun." No, it's not pure fun. It's tainted fun – tainted by adult disappointments and weaknesses. Nobody would call the Simpsons "pure fun."

  8. Cubeland Mystic says

    You mean like Happy Feet was pure fun?

  9. Matthew Lickona says

    Didn't see Happy Feet, CM. But I'm not suggesting that kid movies ought not to touch on adult themes. I'm suggesting that corrosive cynicism isn't your friend here. The Incredibles, after all, featured a dad who was frustrated and longed to return to his old way of life. But he wasn't nasty.

  10. Cubeland Mystic says

    Happy Feet was a horrible movie. A lot of sex. As I recall it was about mating, but not too much mating because of the environment. I recall watching it with the kids and it was about getting laid.

    I would have bought this movie but for your post. I agree with your criticism 100%. Isn't that really the purpose of Children's art to introduce them to adult themes in appropriate ways?

  11. Mark Thomas says

    The marketing, then, was reprehensible. Desperately so. As in desperate to recoup some of the film's losses through DVD sales and rents to families, which is where the money (always) is. (But then, does anyone keep track of how much money Anderson & Son movies make anyway?)

    I couldn't bait you into commenting on this review, could I? My respect for Zacharek was recently doubled after reading her dissing of the universal swoon-fest that was Up in the Air. (And as long as I'm linking like a mad fool…a link to link the links!!)

  12. notrelatedtoted says

    Thanks for the review, Matt. I'll be removing this from the Netflix queue.

  13. Matthew Lickona says

    Well, I'm not saying it's a terrible movie, just that it's a rough road for children. The book was better, though.

  14. Cubeland Mystic says

    Is this for real?

  15. Anonymous says

    My kids asked me what "tart" means. Try explaining THAT to someone like son #2. (I think son # 1 secretly suspects the meaning but would not admit so under pain of torture and death.) As for son #2 someone imagines something like, teacher, do you know that my dad made a fruit "TART" this weekend and guess what "TART" means something else too……..oh, also, my kids have memorized the diddy that goes to that movie…which they sing constantly. yeah for me. But I live with a man who loves movies and who loves clever filmmaking, so in the name of "art" not to be confused with "TART"….mcm

  16. Matthew Lickona says


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