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Movie Review: "The Fox and the Hound"

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Fox and the Hound

Theatrical Release: 7/10/1981

Theatrical Release: 7/10/1981

Synopsis

After a young fox’s mother is killed, a motherly owl named Big Mama (Pearl Bailey) comes to the young fox’s aid. She knows she cannot properly care for the young fox herself, so she orchestrates a plan that ends with the young fox being taken in by a lonely old woman (Jeanette Nolan) who lives by herself on her farm. Meanwhile, the woman’s neighbor (Jack Albertson) has just brought home a young hound with the intention of raising him as a hunting dog. Being of a similar age and being neighbors, the fox (Tod), and the hound (Copper) become quick friends.

Unfortunately, theirs is a forbidden friendship. At the end of the day, Tod is a fox and Copper is a hunting dog. Their childhood friendship was a strong one, but now they have grown, and their friendship is put to the test. Copper’s owner has raised him to be a dedicated hunting dog, and when Tod is caught on the hunter’s land, the hunter is infuriated. It quickly becomes his mission to hunt Tod, and he plans to use the talented Copper to do so.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

The ProsThe Cons

Tod & Copper (+8pts)

Length of Friendship (-2pts)

Chief (+4pts)

Widow’s Decision (-2pts)

The Animals (+5pts)

Amos (-1pts)

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Pro: Tod & Copper (+8pts)

I may be a little biased when it comes to my enjoyment of this movie. When I was a kid, I went through a long phase where this was my favorite movie. I had the VHS tape, I watched it constantly, brought it to relatives houses, and requested to watch “Fock and Hound.” With all of that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I really like these two characters, and I really like their story.

As a kid, it is easy to relate to the playful nature of both of these characters in their childhood, and the forbidden nature of their friendship adds a lot of suspense that even a child can pick up on. As an adult, the childhood version of these characters reminds the viewer of their own youth, and their forbidden friendship is still just as interesting. It is basically Romeo and Juliet, except with friends instead of lovers (although their is no suicide, for obvious reasons). It is a story about friendship, growing up, and what time can do to even the best of friends. Tod and Copper’s story is easy to relate to as a kid and as an adult, and provides different perspectives depending on your age when you watch it. All of this makes it easy to root for their friendship, and is why The Fox and the Hound is still one of my favorite Disney movies.

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Con: Length of Friendship (-2pts)

This is an area of the story that could have been handled better. In the grand scheme of this movie, it felt like Tod and Copper were childhood friends for only a couple of days. They play for a bit, get in trouble, then Amos takes Copper on a long hunting trip. I am not trying to suggest that childhood friends have to be friends for a long time in order to be good friends, but developing this friendship more on screen would have helped the viewer get even more invested in this story, especially during the film's climax. With a run-time of only about an hour and twenty minutes, there was definitely time to do so. Fortunately, the little screen-time that their childhood friendship did get was effective, so this only ended up being a minor issue.

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Pro: Chief (+4pts)

As a kid, I remember not liking this character, but he was an effective antagonist. I feared him catching Tod and Copper together when they were young, and I feared him catching Tod once Tod was an adult fox. I will admit, I had a simple-minded perspective of this character as a kid, because as an adult, I have a more complex one. Sure, he is an antagonist in the sense that he is a threat to Tod, but he is really just doing his job well.

Chief has lived his life as a hunting dog, so it makes sense for him to want to chase Tod, a fox with whom he has no personal connection with, off of his land. You still fear the character as an antagonist, but as an adult you fear him being good at his job, instead of being a kid who fears him because he is "mean". As an adult, you also see that Chief cares about Copper, and looks after him throughout the movie. The character is effective as an antagonist to any child viewers, but being an adult changes your perspective of the character to one that is more complex. He is still effective as an antagonist, because him being good at what he does is bad news for Tod, but being an adult gives you an appreciation for why he does what he does and also gives you an appreciation for his mentor-ship of Copper.

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Con: Widow’s Decision (-2pts)

This was a really minor issue, but I felt that Widow made an unjustified 180 degree flip, in terms of her defense of Tod. I get her decision, but thought the filmmakers did a poor job of justifying it. They could have just had her realize that Tod is now an adult fox, meaning her job was complete. Instead, they forced this whole dramatic moment that felt like it came out of nowhere.

Widow went from aggressively defending Tod, to all of a sudden having a complete change of heart (even though a lot of time had passed between the two incidents that led to her decision). Again, I get her decision, I just thought the filmmakers did a poor job of getting her there. At the end of the day, this is just a kid's movie, so plot expectations should be managed accordingly. Even still, this was a very minor issue, so did not impact my enjoyment of the movie. I was still able to connect with the moment dramatically, and it was necessary to move Tod's story forward. I just thought the filmmakers could have done a better job of justifying Widow's decision.

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Pro: The Animals (+5pts)

Whether it be the birds and caterpillar around the farm, or the various animals that lived in the wildlife reservation, the animals in this movie were fun. The two birds and their mission to get the caterpillar provided a few entertaining scenes, then the filmmakers switched it up by introducing the group of animals that live in the wildlife reservation, and seeing Tod trying to integrate with them provided a few entertaining scenes as well. Then there was the motherly Big Mama who looked over them all. The movie is about Tod and Copper, but the rest of the animals made for an entertaining group of secondary characters.

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Con: Amos (-1pts)

I was fine with the decision that Amos made at the end of the movie, but I thought he came to that decision a little to suddenly. The filmmakers clearly wanted to wait until the last minute for him to make this decision, because they wanted to force more suspense and drama into the climax. However, I felt like Amos would either not have made that decision at all, or would have made it earlier and in a less dramatic way. Fortunately, this was a very minor issue, and is really just me nitpicking to try to find a third issue that I had with this movie. At the end of the day, this had almost no impact on the story, but was a moment that always struck me as a little odd.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (87pts)

Growing up, I went through quite the phase where The Fox and the Hound was my favorite movie. Thus, it was only fitting that this was the first movie that I watched on Disney+. I have always liked this movie a lot, although it does have a few minor plot issues. Widow's decision seemed to come out of nowhere, Amos' decision defied logic in order to force more dramatic suspense into the story, and the length of Tod and Copper's childhood friendship felt a little too short to justify this whole story. I think the story could have benefited from spending more time with Tod and Copper as children, to make the climax of this movie more impactful, but the story was still effective, nonetheless.

I really liked Tod and Copper's story. I liked the forbidden friendship between the two main characters, and that it was basically Romeo and Juliet (minus the suicide), except with friends instead of lovers. I also thought the supporting animal characters were all entertaining, and watching this story as an adult gave me a new appreciation toward the antagonist character of Chief. Was this movie perfect? No, but I have always liked it a lot, and now it takes me back to my own childhood. It is a story about friendship, time, and growing up. Adults and kids will have very different perspectives when watching this movie, but the movie works on both accounts and ends up being a story that the whole family can enjoy.