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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > The Tale of Despereaux

MOVIE REVIEWS

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (2008)

Featuring the voices of Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman,  Emma Watson, Frank Langella, Sigourney Weaver, Tracey Ullman, Christopher Lloyd, Robbie Coltrane, Kevin Kline, Richard Jenkins, William H. Macy, Stanley Tucci, Tony Hale, Ciarán Hinds, Frances Conroy, Charles Shaughnessy, Bronson Pinchot and James Nesbitt..

Screenplay by Gary Ross and Kate DiCamillo.

Directed by Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen.

Distributed by Universal Pictures.  87 minutes.  Rated G.

The Tale of Despereaux

The bar has been raised so much on animated films over the past couple of decades that something like The Tale of Despereaux - despite the fact that it is somewhat imaginative, has a great voice cast and has a rather unique visual style - really doesn't quite cut muster.  It's not bad by any means, but it's also not very good, nor is it all that distinctive.

In fact, the storyline is just a bit too much reminiscent of Ratatouille, a film which was much more clever and well made.  Despereaux adds more ingredients to the broth, however instead of making it a more flavorful dish it just overwhelms the delicate balance of tastes.

As this previous analogy suggests, this film centers around rodents and a gourmet's palate.  There are not just rats in this film - mice (and people) are just as important to the tale - however Despereaux repeats several of Ratatouille's plot points about a rat who is intrigued by fine cuisine and refuses the garbage and entrails that make up the dietary staples of his brethren.

Of course, the main rat Roscuro (voiced by Dustin Hoffman) is not the lead character here.  That is a little mouse with huge ears named Desperaux (Matthew Broderick).  Despereaux is an outcast in his mouse colony because he is not afraid of everything, is a gentleman and has a curiosity and wanderlust for the world outside.

They all live in a world which is famous for its soup.  (That's right, you heard me, soup...  I couldn't make that up.)  Every year, the most important day is when a new type of soup is unveiled.  When Roscuro inadvertently ruins the annual soup day and the queen dies, the king outlaws both soup and rats.  The kingdom turns very dreary and sad. 

The princess (Emma Watson) longs for the old days of happiness, color and occasional rain.  Therefore Despereaux, being a courtly mouse, sets about fixing the rift and returning the town to its original, happier state.

The most interesting thing about The Tale of Despereaux is the animation style.  The characters and drawings have a Elizabethan European look.  While the animation in general may not be quite as good as many other computer animated flicks, this interesting style lends interest to the visuals even when it is not always technically perfect.

However the story, for all its fairytale cuteness, moves a little too slowly and is a little too unoriginal to wholeheartedly recommend Despereaux.  The worlds of the humans, mice and rats are interesting, but the story runs out of steam long before it comes to an end. 

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: January 2, 2009.

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