The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux
Our Rating
3 Stars - Good
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Directed By
Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen
Run Time
1 hour 33 minutes
Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman
Theatre Release
December 19, 2008 by Universal Pictures

Kate DiCamillo's book The Tale of Despereaux is an enchanting story about a mouse with the heart of a hero. Already considered a classic, this Newberry Award winner is a favorite of families and children's librarians everywhere.

And now The Tale of Despereaux—or something resembling it—is a movie. Director Sam Fell is no stranger to rodents; he directed Dreamworks' Flushed Away. But where Flushed was a cartoon caper, Despereaux is a poetic work of children's literature that deserves a place alongside such classics as Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh stories, White's Charlotte's Web, and Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. Fell and his co-director Rob Stevenhagen respect their source enough to illustrate it with lush and extravagant animation. Newcomers accustomed to frantic, frivolous, disposable family fare are likely to be surprised and enthralled.

But what about DiCamillo's fans? Is this Tale what they've dreamed of seeing on the big screen?

Not exactly. This is more like Despereaux on Steroids—a sprawling, complicated, schizophrenic tale that may be the strangest family film since Babe: Pig in the City.

It's a simple story: Despereaux is born an eccentric mouse with enormous ears. Breaking the rules that all good mice follow—Cower! Scurry! Be afraid!—he follows his super-sized heart right up into the palace, where the beautiful Princess Pea, lonely and sad, is trapped in the gloom brought on by the loss of her mother, who died of shock when she found a rat in her soup. Smitten by this broken-hearted beauty, Despereaux's inner White Knight awakens. He vows to honor and serve the princess.

But fraternizing with humans brings a harsh judgment: Despereaux's fellow mice sentence him to hard time in "Ratworld," a ...

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