Almost A Classic: The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales

The Big Bad Fox And Other Tales indexFrom one of the directors of Ernest & Celestine (Benjamin Renner) and the animation director of April and the Extraordinary World (Patrick Imbert), two films I adore a huge amount, comes this also adorable movie. It’s one which is split in to three separate segments telling a different story each time as we meet the various animals who all live on a farm together, and witness the strange and amusing events that happen to them.

Supposedly a selection of three short plays that they’re performing at a theatre, and introduced by the very friendly and chatty Fox (Giles New) of the title, this framing device is then discarded and we’re given the first tale which sees Pig (Justin Edwards) horrified by Duck (Bill Bailey) and Bunny (Adrian Edmonson) offering to help him garden, and with good reason as the two are soon destroying all of his previous hard work. This is soon the least of his concerns though as when a stork on his way to deliver a baby crashes in to a tree, he claims he is unable to complete his task and asks Pig, Duck and Bunny to step in and make sure that baby Pauline arrives at the correct destination. Chaos naturally follows, a highly inventive bout of silliness which involves Duck and Bunny suggesting they use a catapult to get the baby home, a rather hungry wolf (Matthew Goode) attempting to eat them, the trio ending up in the back of a butcher’s truck, and then on an airplane where they may accidentally end up in China.

Out of the three stories this is the one with the most physical comedy, it’s of the kind where our heroes almost die a ridiculous amount of times but just manage to avoid the icy jaws of death each occasion. There’s a lot of fun dialogue as Bunny and Duck aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, though that said there’s also a very funny moment when we learn that Bunny can speak perfect Chinese and is surprised that everyone else can’t. Pig is constantly frustrated by Bunny and Duck’s actions too, often completely understandably, but by the heart warming end they’re all best pals.

The second tale is the cutest and also the best, as the big bad fox of the title teams up with the wolf we met in the first story and both are hungry buggers who plan to break in to the farm and kill some chickens. Unfortunately they’re no match for the kick ass chickens, but then the wolf comes up with a plan – to steal the eggs, wait until they hatch, feed them and fatten them up, and then have a big old feast. There’s only one problem though, in that when hatched the three chickens presume the fox is their mummy, and over time he falls madly in love with them and so has to save them from the surly wolf.

This section works so beautifully because the little chicks are frickin’ delightful, and the way they excitedly call the fox “Mummy!” and keep on saying things like “I love you!” is so shockingly cute that if the wolf had eaten them I’d have tracked him down myself and murdered the bastard. Fortunately this is a kid’s film and so of course that doesn’t happen, but the scenes where the chicks believe they’re tough foxes who can beat up the wolf, and the fox’s desperate attempts to persuade the wolf not to eat them are extremely sweet and funny. There’s also a subplot with the chicken (Celia Imrie) who is missing her lost eggs / children, and the lazy dog (Phil Jupitus, actually good for once) who has failed to protect them, and this is packed with some really amusing moments too as the chicken’s turn to self defence lessons to keep themselves safe.

The final story is a Christmas themed one and sees Pig, Bunny and Duck return as the central characters, though those from the second story are lurking in the background. It’s also a return to a lot of slapstick as Bunny and Duck think that Santa Claus exists, but when a decorative plastic Santa breaks they presume they’ve killed him and must save the day by finding some toys and delivering them to the children across the world. Of course they’re deeply inept so the toys are just some rubbish they found in the street, and the sleigh the hope to fly in is a shopping cart, but a meeting with some dogs in a dog pound helps them along their way, and the ending is a quite unpredictable affair.

If I’ve one issue with the film it’s that in this section poor old Pig is the subject of a great deal of misery and physical harm, and they overdo it a little at times and torture him too much. Otherwise this is just as delightful as the other two stories, packed with cute little lines and the plot moves at a fast pace, it remains imaginative and unforeseeable to the end, and is also packed with very lovable characters who pretty much all deserve a film of their own. Plus seeing Duck and Bunny bury what they think is Santa in a shallow grave is a bizarrely funny image, and one which will stay with me for a long old time.

It isn’t quite up there with Ernest and Celine and A Town Called Panic but it comes bloody close and is yet another charming French animation which involves engaging characters in unusual settings doing very funny things. I couldn’t track down the French audio version but those involved in the English dub are on superb form, and it’s such an enjoyable movie that if you ever meet someone who isn’t fond of it, suspect them of being a psychopath who must be feared at all times because this is pure loveliness in film form.

★★★★

Alex Finch.
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