Nearly all of Wes Anderson's films have had a strong sense of childlike wonder, but Fantastic Mr. Fox, which is based on Roald Dahl's charming book, is his first film specifically for children. The movie's soundtrack manages to take nearly all of Anderson's musical fascinations -- Anglophilia, Francophilia, '60s pop and rock, and music from other gentler and/or quirkier times -- and tailor them to a younger audience. Though Anderson's films and their soundtracks have been criticized for valuing style over substance, Fantastic Mr. Fox's stylization is fitting, given that the film's characters are stop-motion animal puppets. The soundtrack's songs and Alexandre Desplat's score mix delicacy and rough-and-tumble energy while reminding listeners of what children's movies and music used to be like before being cool took precedence over everything else. While there are two songs from Anderson favorites the Beach Boys, "Heroes and Villains" and "Ol' Man River," it's Burl Ives who contributes the most songs to Fantastic Mr. Fox. Ives' grandfatherly tone made him one of the most enduring and endearing voices in children's entertainment, and the tracks that appear here ("Fooba Wooba John," "Buckeye Jim," and "The Grey Goose") dig into his pastoral folk roots. Likewise, the Wellingtons' "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" conjures instant nostalgia and childhood adventure, both of which are echoed in Desplat's score. Cues like "Jimmy Squirrel and Co." and "Boggis, Bunce, and Bean" are as twinkly and precious as previous Anderson film scores, but more rural elements like banjo and Jew's harp roughen them up enough to fit in with the soundtrack's overall folky feel. Meanwhile, "Just Another Dead Rat in a Garbage Pail (Behind a Chinese Restaurant)," "Great Harrowsford Square," and "Stunt Expo 2004" have a spaghetti Western-like air of danger and intrigue that sets the stage for the somber "Canis Lupis" and Georges Delerue's noble "Le Grand Choral." Moodier moments aside, Fantastic Mr. Fox is mostly gleeful, especially on the Bobby Fuller Four's "Let Her Dance," Jarvis Cocker's "Fantastic Mr. Fox aka Petey's Song," and the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man" -- this may be one of the only children's films where a song about "violent revolution" is actually appropriate. While this album is less about digging into Anderson's deep record collection than his other film's soundtracks have been, Fantastic Mr. Fox may be the most purely joyous one since Rushmore.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares