Monday, July 9, 2012

The Book Review, Sunday, July 8, 2012: Fantastic Mr Fox, by Roald Dahl

Madame L mentioned the movie "Fantastic Mr. Fox" in her "Fiction Friday" column on Aunt Louise's blog last week ("The Bechdel Test")  and promised to write more about it.

The movie is based, loosely, on the children's book by Roald Dahl. (Madame L is fascinated by the fact that in the American-made movie the American usage of using a period at the end of "Mr" is followed, although the British usage of no period after "Mr" is followed for the book, which may be only because the edition Madame L has was published in England.)

In "Fantastic Mr Fox," Mr and Mrs Fox and the four Little Foxes live in a hole under a big tree. Mr Fox can't keep living the staid, non-stealing family life he's been trying to live, so he starts stealing chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and apple cider from Farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. 

The three farmers, about whom children sing a ditty about how horrible, crooked, and mean they are, vow to get revenge. They destroy the Fox Family's home and make it impossible for the Foxes and all the other underground-dwelling creatures to come out again. But the animals get the last laugh, and all the meals they can eat for the rest of their natural lives, making fools of the three evil farmers.

The movie expands brilliantly, in modern-American-movie fashion, on the book: Here, Mr. and Mrs. Fox have only one child, a sullen teenage son; a nephew who must come to live with them while his father sorts through some emotional problems; and Mr. Fox wants to live in a tree instead of under one. 

Yep, folks, it's the American Dream for the Foxes.

(The first [above] and second [below] "official movie trailers" for the movie)

Although the movie is made with puppets, using "still-life animation," and uses the word "cuss" instead of actual cuss words, it's not necessarily for every family. Parents might watch it with older children, probably slightly older than the age of those who would be reading the book; but it has violence which Madame L thinks not all parents would want their younger children to watch. (Yes, Madame L knows it's cartoon violence.)

Madame L read the book after watching the movie, and read about the Bechdel Test after that. So what?

Both the book and the movie fail the Bechdel Test miserably, which of course doesn't make them any less enjoyable. 

It does make Madame L wonder, though, with the same wonderment that many of us have been feeling for years: Why men and boys all the time? Can't women and girls be heroes? Why do we keep reading and seeing these male-centered views of the world? When will we see the wife be more than the person who goes down into the cellar to choose some bottles of alcoholic cider, having to ask her husband repeatedly how many bottles he wants? When will we see movies about women and girls (and female cartoon animals, too) being smart and ingenious and outwitting the bad guys?

Please see Laura's comment about the Bechdel Test. And here's the song she mentions, "Fairytale," by Sara Bareilles:

Madame L particularly likes the closing line: "I don't want the next-best thing."

(As of this writing, the movie "Fantastic Mr. Fox" was available for $6.99 and the book "Fantastic Mr Fox" for $6.78 at

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