Director: Sam Fell, Rob Stevenhagen
Cast: Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Frances Conroy, Tony Hale, Ciaran Hinds, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Frank Langella, Christopher Lloyd, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Tracey Ullman, Emma Watson, Sigourney Weaver
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.thetaleofdespereauxmovie.com/
Opening Day: 12 March 2009
Once upon a time, in the faraway kingdom of Dor, there was magic in the air, raucous laughter aplenty and gallons of mouth-watering soup. But a terrible accident left the king broken-hearted, the princess filled with longing and the townsfolk despondent. All hope was lost in a land where sunlight disappeared and the world became dreary gray. Until Despereaux Tilling was born...
A brave and virtuous mouse, Despereaux is simply too big for his small world. Though tiny, wheezy and saddled with comically oversized ears, Despereaux refuses to live a life of weakness and fear...believing he was destined to be celebrated in the tales of chivalry he so adores.
When he's banished from his home for not following the rules that society expects of a mouse, Despereaux befriends fellow outcast Roscuro, a good-hearted rat who can't bear to look in the mirror and hopes to live far from the grim underground of his kind. While Despereaux begins his noble quest to rescue Pea--a princess who can't see beyond her distorted view of the world--his pal Roscuro receives a painful rejection from her highness that sets him on a course of self-destruction.
Along their parallel adventures, the two encounter colorful characters from a serving girl who wishes to be a princess to the evil leader of the sewer rats, who plots revenge on humans from his fiefdom in the subterranean shadows he relishes but Roscuro can't abide.
From the highest turrets of the glittering castle to the dankest dark of Dor's sewers, friendships will be tested as Despereaux and Roscuro embark upon a journey that will change the way they look at their world--and themselves--forever. In this tale of bravery, forgiveness and redemption, one tiny creature will teach a kingdom that it takes only a little light to show that what you look like doesn't equal what you are.
There are two trailers for The Tale of Despereaux. The teaser trailer focused on the brave antics of Despereaux, living in the midst of a timid population. It was exciting, funny and it generated anticipation for the adventure of this little mouse. However later on, the theatrical trailer would featured a more generic and boring trailer for this movie that seems to suggest that this movie is not as exciting as the teaser had earlier indicated.
Sadly the theatrical trailer would prove to be a more accurate indicator of this movie than the teaser.
First of all, instead of focusing on Despereaux and taking the time to build up his character, the runtime had to be divided with other various supporting characters such as Roscuro (the rat with guilt on his back) and Mig (the servant girl who wants to be a princess). While it’s commendable that movie attempted to include all the crucial characters from the source material, it’s important to note that the book version spread the three characters stories out and linking them in the last act.
The book had more time to build these characters up, giving pleasure in getting to know them and their respectable exploits. The movie on the other hand could only tell so much in their limited runtime and in the end, the attempt to include all these three characters had ended in a jarring viewing experience of the world of Despereaux. It felt like just when the viewer is about to settle in with the one character, the camera just shift to another and had to restart all over again. Obviously the story of Despereaux had to be condensed into tiny bits that were not that enjoyable as one might have hope for. If it wasn’t enough, there’s even a Veggie spirit in the mixture which was left largely unexplained and made one wonder what the point of including this character.
Personally I am a fan of staying true to the source material but if there’s ever a time when less is more, the Tale of Despereaux could have benefit from exclusion of some of the subplots and focus on building the main plot instead. It simply lacks the time or the editing / story telling skills to bring out all the three characters in equal spotlight.
Beside the “too many cooks” problem, The Tale of Despereaux felt like it was taking on certain issues that felt inappropriate for kids to understand. The dark nature of jealous and rejection that Roscuro and Mig experienced in this movie make wonder if the kids are ready to take on such lesson in life yet. It felt that after watching this PG film, the parents will have plenty of explaining to give to the kids or it might just leave a detrimental effect to the growing child’s mind.
However Despereaux is still as adorable as the teaser had presented him (which is a sore point since there so little of him in this movie) and the overall moral about courage served as a good educating tool for the children. There are so much potential with this movie as the teaser indicate but ultimately squandered away as it tired to take on too many at one go.
(Overly ambitious and too dark for kids)
Review by Richard Lim Jr