The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

I feel, in the spirit of full disclosure, that I should admit how much I adore Roald Dahl. He’s dry and witty, his writing is tight. His plots have morals without sugar-coating the immorality of (often) more than half of the characters...and even his heroes aren’t always clear-cut Good Guys.

Take Mr. Fox. He’s a thief. Yes, he’s stealing to feed his family, and he’s a fox so it’s assumed that that’s what he’d do...but he’s still a thief. And when it’s pointed out to him he rationalizes that it’s the only way to feed his family. It’s steal or starve to death. And after all, the people from whom they are stealing are three Very Bad Men, so it’s really not harmful.

And that’s the gist of it, really: three awful farmers (and to hear Dahl tell it it’s amazing they manage to have farms, employees, and spouses) get fed up with the fox stealing from them nightly and set out to do something about it. Namely: kill the fox. They chase Mr. Fox into his hole with his family and, when shooting and digging prove not clever enough, decide to starve him out.

I won’t tell you how it ends, except to remind you of the title of the book. It’s a little chapter book, it would take barely an afternoon for an adult to read, but could be spread out over a week for a young reader. I wouldn’t hold back from giving this to your kids to read, either. Certainly before the movie comes out. Dahl doesn’t sugar coat things, but he doesn’t discount virtue, either. It’s a worthy read.

Wes Anderson loves it so much that he’s written a screenplay and directed a stop-action film based on the book. From the trailer and the interview it appears that he’s given more story to the story, but that’s to be expected: a direct cinematic translation would be either full length and boring or thirty minutes and interesting. Staying true to Dahl’s vision is the trick, but I feel if anyone, Anderson is the man for the job.

Interview here:  
(there’s also an amusing anecdote regarding Anderson’s desire to shoot a sci-fi space movie on location at the end)

And Trailer:

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