Stop-motion animation is exacting, exhausting work: building puppets, placing them on a miniature stage and moving them one frame at a time tens of thousands of times. Harder still is bringing insouciant life to this arduous process. That's what director Wes Anderson and animation director Mark Gustafson managed in this delightful version of the Roald Dahl children's classic about a dapper, larcenous fox (voiced by George Clooney) who aims to pull off one last, impossible heist. The vibe of Fox's family is as comically tense as it is in families from earlier films by Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and co-writer Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale), but the brood soon bonds to reveal its foxiness and humanity. To this puckish, handsomely rendered comedy, add the meritorious work on Coraline, A Town Called Panic and the Wallace and Gromit short A Matter of Loaf and Death, and you had a banner year for stop-motion.
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