The Fantastic Mr. Fox contains a moral that director Wes Anderson clearly learned well: Work with your strengths and be true to your nature.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox contains a moral that director Wes Anderson clearly learned well: Work with your strengths and be true to your nature.

Though an adaptation of a Roald Dahl children's tale in stop-motion animation is entirely new territory for the Rushmore creator, the result is very recognizably an Anderson film. The new elements don't compromise his distinctive vision; if anything, they'll just open it up to a wider audience.

In fighting a life rut, newspaperman Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) leaves the safe family hole for aboveground dwelling in a stately tree, and makes a thrilling return to his earlier career as a thief at the expense of a mean trio of wealthy farmers.

His plan ends up angering Mrs. Fox (Meryl Streep), increasing jealousies between their misfit son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) and multitalented visiting cousin Kristofferson (Eric Anderson), and threatening the entire animal population in the area.

It's the sort of blind, ends-justify-the-means approach Steve Zissou or Royal Tenenbaum might take, but more than character, it's style that betrays Anderson's touch here.

The handmade quality in all of his films consumes the screen, its built-in imperfections made even more charming by their up-front presence. Anderson's attention to detail yields another perfect cast and some truly stunning imagery.

The melancholy of his past films is also present, but only in passing. Predominantly, the movie's whimsically funny and likely to leave a wide smile on your face.