The Tale of Despereaux (2008) G 100min
December 28th, 2008 by Maxim · No Comments · 11,361 Views
This 3D-animated adventure based on Kate DiCamillo’s book was directed by Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen, featuring voices of Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Broderic, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Klein and others.
The plot: The lives of three heroes, a mouse with big ears who prefers reading books to eating them, a rat from a ship who dreams of getting out of the dungeon and redeeming himself, and a servant-girl who dreams to become a princess – become intertwined with the life of the princess living in the castle.
I saw this film in the theater, which was empty, with my friends. The fact that we were there alone was quite cool because we could talk out-loud, and it felt like we have a private screening.
The good: I liked how animals were animated – but not humans. Despereuax-the brave mouse really had cute big ears and pink nose. The characters in the film looked like they are story-book characters, which, I guess is the good way to depict them, but this animation style didn’t work for me. Many good visuals otherwise. Good musical score.
The bad: Where to begin… The story is a mess. First we are introduced to a ship rat, whose name I didn’t catch. The rat gets implicated in the murder of the queen and as the result all rats are banished into the dungeon. Then all of sudden Sigourney Weaver begin to narrate something about morals and destiny and about the hero who is born when we most need him. Forget the rat in the dungeon – a mouse is born. The mouse, named Despereaux, has big ears and has Matthew Broderick’s (!!!) voice. All the mice in the movie wear what looks like 14th century Venetian clothes. He’s a bit of a rebel because he refuses to be afraid, and as a result gets institutionalized – in the dungeon. It was fun to recognize the voices of the actors from Harry Potter franchise, like Emma Watson as Princess Pea and Robbie Coltrane as Gregory. But why was Matthew Broderick voicing over Despereaux? How old was Despereaux? If he’s a baby, why doesn’t he talk like a baby? He is probably an young-adult-dwarf mouse… with big ears. Then we are introduced to yet another character - a pig-faced servant girl who dreams to become a princess. We are told by the narrator that she has a big heart, but it was never proven. Narration not only does not explain or comment on the events in the movie, it confuses us even more with unwarranted moralizing and does not make an attempt to connect three parallel plots until the end of the movie. After one hour of watching the film, we all began to look at our watches and wondering how long can it go on. We were prepared to leave the theater. The only thing that kept us in was desire to find out how it all ends – something Despereaux himself vowed to the Princess Pea – to finish reading the storybook he refused to eat and tell her how the story ends. Because he is “a gentleman”… And she called him “my noble mouse”. I could not wait for Shrek with his Scottish accent and Donkey to appear in the movie to complete the chaotic parade of different characters. By the end of the movie Despereaux also learns to use Bernoulli’s principle by turning his enormous ears into an airfoil (Dumbo, anyone?). Oh, and then narrator said something about forgiveness. The story is about four “heroes”, but I don’t think I have seen any significant heroism. The ship rat, turns from good rat into bad one pretty quickly, but then turns into a good rat even faster. He tries to redeem himself for implicitly killing the queen, but it’s hard to buy it. Finally, the grieving king was one of the most comedic characters in the film because he sat in his room all the time and played what I guess counts as medieval blues. So at the end of the movie when sun comes out and it starts to rain at the same time I expected him to cheer up and play rock ‘n’ roll. Never happened.
The summary: one of the worst movies have seen. Don’t see it, and especially don’t torture your children by bringing it to this 1 hour 40 minutes disaster. The movie deserves a B+ for animation and an F for story. I never read the book – perhaps it’s better.
The cast: Despereaux – Matthew Broderick | Roscuro – Dustin Hoffman | Princess Pea – Emma Watson | Miggery Sow – Tracey Ullman | Andre – Kevin Kline | Lester – William H. Macy | Boldo – Stanley Tucci | Botticelli – Ciarán Hinds | Gregory – Robbie Coltrane | Furlough – Tony Hale | Antoinette – Frances Conroy | Mayor – Frank Langella | Principal – Richard Jenkins | Narrator – Sigourney Weaver
The crew: Director – Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen | Book – Kate DiCamillo | Screen story – Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi | Producers – Robin Bissell, Celia Boydell, Ryan Kavanaugh, David Lipman, Jamal McLemore, Gary Ross, William Sargent, Tracy Shaw, Allison Thomas | Original Music – William Ross | Cinematography – Brad Blackbourn | Art direction – Olivier Adam | Framestore Feature Animation | Larger Than Life Productions | Relativity Media | Universal Animation Studios | Universal Pictures
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based on novel | character name in title | computer animation | cook | Dustin Hoffman | Emma Watson | Kevin Kline | kingdom | loss of wife | magic | Matthew Broderick | mouse | Needle | princess | Rat | Robbie Coltrane | Sigourney Weaver | Stanley Tucci | Thread | William H. Macy