Drowning Mr. Fox in Celluloid

I was first introduced to the work of Roald Dahl when a summer school teacher decided to read James and the Giant Peach aloud. This introduction was memorable to me for two reasons:

  1. Dahl’s words put my young imagination into overdrive. Who would have ever thought that a story about a group of insects, a boy, and a giant peach could be that amazing?
  2. Listening to Mr. Cook read James and the Giant Peach aloud was the first time I had ever heard a man read a book, of that length, aloud. My Grandpa Ayers would later read books aloud to my siblings and I on camping trips. I loved it when he read (especially Bible stories). There is power when men read aloud to children.

My summer with Mr. Cook and James and the Giant Peach would eventually come to an end. Over the years, I would bump into Dahl’s work on the occasion, such as when the movie Matilda came out —Matilda was a favorite of my Grandpa Ayers, he would jokingly tell my cousins that he was going to take them to the chokey–.

Wyatt and I discovered Dahl’s The BFG a few years ago. I was surprised by how well the book read as it mixes horror elements with made up words and fart jokes. We also read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory soon after. Which was a fun book to read as I had only experienced Wonka in film.

This past Fall, Wyatt and I read Fantastic Mr Fox. This book was both a delight and a surprise to come across. Fantastic Mr Fox is about three farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean growing tired of Mr Fox stealing from them. So they wage an all out war/assault on Mr Fox and his house. Mr Fox ends up losing a body part but ultimately strikes back with a masterful plan. The book is told in a straightforward fashion and is hilarious to read aloud due to Dahl’s use of words. Fantastic Mr Fox is so good read aloud that my brother-in-law, who was staying with us at that time, would sit and listen.

Summer has been baking East Texas, so Tab and Wyatt picked up the movie version of the book the other day. Now there are solid movie adaptations of books, such as Steven Speilberg’s The BFG, and there are horrid film versions that just need to die. Wes Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a travesty. The film unsuccessfully mashes Wes Anderson’s typical character template and storytelling tropes with Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox. Tabitha, Wyatt, and I kept looking at each other wondering what was going on. Bits and pieces of Fantastic Mr Fox were present in the film but were drowned out by Anderson’s style and artistic story license. We were all very disappointed and thankful we had rented the movie from the library.

I noticed, in the movie, that anytime the animals were going to say a bad word, they’d say the word “cuss” instead. The Fantastic Mr. Fox is a great big bowl of cuss. But don’t let that keep you from reading Roald Dahl’s classic with your kids.

Maybe one day a director will do Fantastic Mr Fox justice.

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