Sometimes I watch an animated film and wonder if it was made for kids at all. Some seem a little too mature and low on the things that kids love about animation. There are very few scenes with animals doing funny things or humour in general. This is one of those animated films that are like a painting to look at and full morals and lessons that float on over the heads of kids.
In the town of Dor they are famous for their soup. Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman – Rainman, Meet the Fockers), the rat, dreams about tasting this marvelous soup. In his eagerness he falls into the Queen's soup, she suffers a heartattack and dies. In his grief the King places a ban on rats and soup. Dor becomes a dreary town.
Since birth the mouse Despereaux (Matthew Broderick – Ferris Buller's Day Off, The Producers) has been different from all other mousse. He is tiny with big ears, but his looks are not really what set him apart. Despereaux is fearless, does not cower like other mice, seeks adventure, and is a gentleman.
In a last ditch effort his mother (Frances Conroy – from television's Six Feet Under) and father (William H. Macy – Wild Hogs, Bobby) send him off with his brother to go into the castle to learn how to be a 'normal' mouse. His brother brings him into the library and shows him a book leaving him there expecting Despereaux to eat up the leather bound novel. Instead Despereaux reads the tale of a sad princess and a noble knight and is enraptured by it. He returns day after day to finish reading the entire story.
While in the castle Despereaux comes upon his very own sad princess. The Princess Pea (Emma Watson – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) is quite sad because her mother has died, it hasn't rained in a long time and her father, The King, mopes around the castle. Seizing his opportunity Despereaux promises to help her as he is a gentleman.
Meanwhile, the Mayor (Frank Langella – Frost/Nixon, The Governess) has discovered that Despereaux has spoken to a human and read a book instead of eating it. Despereaux is banished to Ratworld. While there he is rescued by Roscuro and they begin their mission to save the Princess Pea, but there are plenty of obstacles in their way.
Much of the animation in the film is beautiful to look at with expressive eyes and characters looking like they came out of paintings rendered by the masters. The film has a wack of voice talent including Tracy Ullman, Stanley Tucci, Kevin Kline, and the amazing Sigourney Weaver as the narrator. While all this is good the story itself lacks some oomph. Which is surprising considering the book it is based on was a bestselling one. There are too many characters and too little time to tell all their stories with any sort of justice. And somehow, despite all its talk of heroism and honor, it falls flat and does not engage as it should.
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– Interactive Map of the Kingdom of Dor
– Despereaux's Quest Game
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