Review: The Tale of Despereaux
PLOT: A young mouse who hasnt learned how to be like other mice sets out on his own adventure while reading a fairy tale. His story of a princess and a knight in shining armor lead him to cross paths with a rat and a servant girl. The rat searches for redemption after causing a major catastrophe and the girl has uncontrollable jealousy of a beautiful princess. Sound complicated? It might very well be for the young ones.
I feel bad for mice. People are either afraid of them or they use them as food for other animals. But for some reason or another, animated mice seem to be a-okay. You have Fievel, you have Jerry and now you have Despereaux. But this tale of a cute little mouse with big ears and a big heart, is hardly as interesting as Fievel, and not nearly as clever as Jerry. Frankly, Id prefer a real mouse to this mess of a film. Ironically, the mouse Despereaux (Matthew Broderick) is treated as a side character much of the time. Even in the narration by Sigourney Weaver, she informs us that the mouse comes later, because we are first introduced to a rat. This rat named Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) finds himself lost in a big city after causing the death of a Queen. You see, this city is big on its soup, and when this chef prepares it, nobody can resist. Not even a rat. So he ends up spoiling the Queens dinner and leaving her dead, face down in the famous dish. After this, not only are rats banned from the city, so is the soup. Im sorry
who is this meant for? Children?
So here you have an overly complicated plot involving a mouse, a rat, and some servant girl (Tracey Ullman) who dreams of being a princess. The story shifts from one to another rather sloppily. And with each turn of events, we witness the ugly characters turn far from noble during the film. This bothered me. I dont mind that the Roscuro and this poor servant girl named Miggery Sow do some questionable things, but I did mind that they were actually pretty evil things. There is definitely a bit of a moral lesson packed within, but it almost sent the message that ugly people (or rats) will always do ugly things at some point. While that didnt necessarily hurt the film, I kind of wondered what the ugly duckling would think about all of this. There is so much here that is dark and mean-spirited. I would have a hard time recommending this to parents looking to take their children to a nice animated feature.
And speaking of animation, while I liked the look of the mice and the rats and all those things that scurry underfoot, the human characters were downright ugly. Even Princess Pea (Emma Watson) looks like she should be the one hunting the mice. I much preferred mouse world and rat world than the world above. Still, I did appreciate the classic style that seems almost old-fashioned by todays animation standards. As for the script, which is based on the book by Kate DiCamillo, it may just be better to go to your local library. Because here, aside from the mouse, there is very little to root for. It is too dark for children, and the interwoven stories are barely held together by a piece of thread. I could see where they were going, but the arc that most of the characters have is forced and contrived. While this might work as a story that you read to your children as they drift off to sleep, the film doesnt flow together in a satisfying way.
I respect that there may have been a very sweet story here. After all, the actors are used quite well, and they fit their prospective roles. But this jumbled display of rats and mice and a princess is much too dark and frustratingly uneven that very few will find joy in this story of a mouse, a rat and a servant girl. I for one find more joy in the cute little white mice that you can find at your local pet store. They might not have as big of a heart as Despereaux claims to have, but they are a lot less complicated and depressing. My rating 3/10 -- JimmyO
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