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Wes Anderson doubles down on every single one of his indulgent quirks in this Netflix short film adaptation of a Roald Dahl tale, yet somehow he creates his most enjoyable picture of the past decade.

Is there any reason for The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar to be filmed in the boxed 4:3-ratio? For the characters to continuously break the fourth wall? For all the moving, dollhouse-like set parts in the background?

Of course there isn't, unless your name is Wes Anderson and you want to remind everyone in the audience, every single second, that they are watching a Wes Anderson film. For the past decade this has been a constant annoyance for me in the director's films but in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar it didn't nearly bother me as much.

Why? The runtime is one main reason. At 39 minutes this short Netflix film never gets a chance to outstay its welcome, while the breakneck pace of the Roald Dahl narrative - lifted nearly verbatim from his witty, concise original story - is another major asset.

That Anderson moves beyond his regular troop of acting collaborators is another breath of fresh air. Ben Kingsley, Richard Ayoade, Benedict Cumberbatch and especially Dev Patel make for an engaging cast and The Grand Budapest Hotel alumnus Ralph Fiennes is memorable as Roald Dahl.

In truth, the quirks and eccentricities still mostly amount more to style than to substance, as usually is the case with Wes Anderson, but the fact that I still enjoyed large chunks of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar can count as a vast improvement on his most recent pictures.

release: 2023

director: Wes Anderson

starring: Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley


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