The Tale of Despereaux (2008)
The Tale of Despereaux (2008)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 33 min.

Release Date: December 19th, 2008 MPAA Rating: G

Director: Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen Actors: Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Ciaran Hinds, Frank Langella, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Lloyd, Sigourney Weaver, Bronson Pinchot

 


 

T

he mediocrity of the story for “The Tale of Despereaux” is rivaled only by its terribly indistinctive character designs and video game equivalent animation. As it mixes the worst concepts from “Ratatouille,” “An American Tail,” and “The Great Mouse Detective” with a wasted cast of familiar talents and unrecognizable voices (including a wide array of actors, such as Kevin Kline, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Christopher Lloyd, and Bronson Pinchot), it stumbles at originality with moments of absurdness and an accustomed narration. The morals of the tale are apparent, but the method of storytelling is wearisome, humorless, and, most unfortunately, completely unentertaining.

In the kingdom of Dor, where the festive Soup Day is more celebrated than Christmas, the master chef prepares a new recipe to amaze the townsfolk. Presented first to the King and his family, the soup is spoiled by Roscuro the rat (Dustin Hoffman) when he accidentally falls into it. The Queen immediately dies from shock, causing the King to become overwhelmed with heartbreak. He bans the consumption of soup throughout the kingdom, as well as proclaiming it illegal to harbor or help a rat. The rat civilization is confined to Ratworld, hidden deep in the filthy sewers of Dor.

As the narrator (Sigourney Weaver) explains, the hero doesn’t make an appearance until he is needed, so it is now that Despereaux (Matthew Broderick) is introduced. Born with incredibly oversized ears, Despereaux is a tiny mouse who walks with not a dash of timidity, doesn’t scurry, and never cowers. He’s a giant in his own mind, constantly seeking adventure in Mouseworld, the underground city of mice (an upper-class community that never mingles with rats). When his failure to learn the skulking ways of his teachers gets him exiled, he is abandoned in Ratworld, where he is saved by Roscuro. Wallowing in guilt, Roscuro seeks forgiveness from the King, while Despereaux is intent on telling the Princess (Emma Watson) a story – and then coming to her rescue when she ends up in the hands of an evil rat dictator.

The only worthy element in the story is a subplot that uses two generally good characters, Roscuro and Miggery Sow (a pig-farmer who dreamed of living in the castle, and is now a servant for the Princess), and turns them into a source of villainy. Ultimately, they will seek a predictable redemption, but their appearances initially inspire sympathy – an alluring twist to throw at the presumably young viewership. It’s not much, but it’s something, especially considering how this tale of nonconformity, bravery, and courage lacks the will to inspire or excite.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10