Pretty much everyone’s heard of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and James And The Giant Peach, but Fantastic Mr. Fox isn’t one of Roald Dahl’s more well-known works. I mean, obviously enough people read it that Hollywood decided to make it a movie, but still. Even the movie wasn’t a big hit at the box office. Which is a shame, because the movie had a lot of heart put into it. That said, there’s one thing that kind of bugs me about it.
The plot of the book is pretty simple: Mr. Fox steals food from three farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean, to feed his family, but the farmers eventually grow tired of it and decide to essentially wage war on the Fox family. The movie, however, makes things a bit more complicated. At the start, Mr. Fox spends his days thieving from farmers, but when a heist almost gets him and his wife killed, Mrs. Fox makes him promise to stop thieving. A couple years later, we see that Mr. Fox isn’t quite happy with his new life/job, so he and his friend Kylie (who, BTW, wasn’t in the book) start secretly stealing from Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. From there, things play out like in the book. Well, a LOT of changes are made, what with it being an adaptation, but the core idea is still the same: it’s the critters vs. the farmers.
In terms of how good of an adaptation the movie is…I’m not sure whether to say that it “butchers” the plot of the book. Even with all the changes it makes, it still has many of the same plot points, and it keeps the charming, upbeat spirit of the book. But the biggest change is with Mr. Fox himself. In the book, he was stealing chickens/ducks/etc to feed his family, whereas in the movie, he’d made a vow not to, only to break that vow. And as a result of him breaking that vow, the farmers got (justifiably) pissed off and made out to exterminate him.
Yeah. Mr. Fox breaking a promise to his wife…that was NOT in the book. Obviously, Mr. Fox isn’t the first character we’ve seen do something like this. Flawed protagonists have been a thing since the beginning of time, and they absolutely can be done right. But in this case, Mr. Fox’s mistake was what caused all the trouble in the first place. His family lost their home. The three farmers are after their blood. And other animals in their community are also being threatened. All because of Mr. Fox. With all that in mind, it begs the question whether he’s really worth rooting for.
Though, in all fairness, Mr. Fox definitely didn’t mean for that bad stuff to happen. He just wanted a good old thrill. And besides, he does face consequences for his actions. Maybe that’s what the filmmakers were going for: a story about a character who did something bad, and has to find a way to redeem himself.
What do you think?