At The Movies With Peter Travers: "Fantastic Mr. Fox," "The Messenger" and "2012"

By |

True to its title, Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox is in fact fantastic, Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers says in this week's At the Movies. Two of Hollywood's best young directors, Anderson and Spike Jonze, have both successfully mined children's books for their latest films this fall, with Jonze taking on Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are and Anderson now offering up a stop-motion film of Roald Dahl's tale of mischievous foxes, badgers and other animals.

Like Anderson's Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic, Fantastic Mr. Fox features a dysfunctional father — in this case a former thief (voiced by George Clooney) who plots one more caper against the three men who plan to drill the family foxhole. Just as Wild Things tested the limits of PG ratings, Anderson also respects the imagination of children and the essence of Dahl's book by not watering down the content. Fox scored a fantastic three-and-a-half star review from Travers in our new issue, so if you're going to the movies this weekend, see this and not that blockbuster coming out (more on that in a sec).

Woody Harrelson, who recently sat down with Travers for an Off the Cuff interview, gives fantastic performances in two movies opening this weekend. However, one of the movies is worth seeing, and the other is headed for the Scum Bucket. First, the worthwhile film and the one that might land Harrelson an Academy Award nod is The Messenger. Co-starring Ben Foster, the film tells the story of a pair of casualty notification officers — soldiers assigned to telling families their loved one has died in war. The film sounds like a downer, but Travers assures it's done beautifully and features one of Harrelson's best performances to date.

And then there's the stale popcorn blockbuster that will likely rule the box office this weekend: the disaster flick 2012. The end of the Mayan calendar serves as the excuse to destroy the world for a painful two hours and forty minute runtime. That's 160 minutes of destruction, bad dialogue, worse acting (save Harrelson as a paranoid radio DJ) and mind-numbing CGI.

The film is director Roland Emmerich's third in an unofficial apocalypse trilogy that includes Independence Day and The Day AfterTomorrow. Hypothetically, if the world really is ending on December 21st, 2012, there must be better things to do with these remaining months than see 2012.

This Week's New Reviews:
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Messenger
Pirate Radio
2012