Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux
2008. Rated G, 94 minutes.
Directors: Sam Fell, Rob Stevenhagen. Starring Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Tracy Ullman, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Frank Langella, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Lloyd.

Plot: Despereaux (Broderick) is an outcast among other mice since he doesn't cower, scurry or show any fear at all. For this, he is banished from "Mouse World" into the sewers below. From there, he embarks on the adventure of a lifetime in hopes of saving a princess and perhaps an entire kingdom.

The Good: It trusts it's audience will stay with it when it lets up off the accelerator. So while there are scenes of silliness and action sprinkled throughout, there's ample time devoted to character development and plot building. The viewer is not rushed from one action scene to the next and we actually get to know a number of these characters. Visually, it's a wonderful piece of work. Like a lot of animated fare, it blends photo-realism with it's more cartoonish elements but it does so seemlessly.

The Bad: The tone might be a tad too serious. Young viewers weened on the all-out goofiness of many animated movies might be put off a bit. Also, If there's one character who was underdeveloped, it's the king. Having him more involved would've added another dimension, particularly if more attention were given his relationship with his daughter, Princess Pea (Emma Watson). As is, he sort of punctuates the movie. He occasionally shows up briefly to remind us he's there. Finally, I would love to have seen just how the rats got their two prisoners, especially the cat.
The Ugly: What happens to the queen.

Recommendation: It might move a bit slow for really young kids or those with short attention spans. Use Ratatouille or maybe even Wall-E as a guide. How you or your kids reacted to the non-action parts of those may provide insight into how they'll respond to Despereaux. For the rest of us, it's a pleasure to take in but admittedly not as good as the two movies I just mentioned. It's a movie in which we can actually relate to the characters having the adventure, even if they are mostly mice and rats.

The Opposite View: Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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