The Tale of Despereaux is the story of a rat who’s in the wrong place at the wrong time, a mouse who won’t cower, and a princess stuck in a tower.
This beautifully animated tale has the lovely feel of an old fashioned storybook, hand written and illustrated with a quill on thick, textured paper. The story begins when a rat named Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) accidentally causes an uproar with tragic consequences on Soup Day in the kingdom of Dor. As a result, the grieving king banishes both rats and soup; further (I suppose because of all the sadness), the sun retreats, and it has stopped raining.
Enter Despereaux (Matthew Broderick). He’s not like other mice: he’s small, even for a mouse, and he’s brave. He longs for adventure. He meets Princess Pea (Emma Watson), who is scarred by the tragic events and saddened by her father’s rash decree. When Despereaux is later banished from Mouseworld for his failure to conform, he is saved from certain death by Roscuro, and the two become friends. They see themselves as gentlemen, and they’ve bound themselves by a code of honor. This code will eventually propel them to save the princess and restore the kingdom of Dor in their own small way.
The movie has a great message about courage in the face of fear and rejection. It deals with the subjects of pain and grief, and how they affect our hearts and our actions. And the story demonstrates forgiveness by one of its characters, even when it was hard or undeserved. These I liked. In fact, there was a great line that’s probably a credit to the original story’s author (Kate DiCamillo): “Whenever you have hope, you’re never really anybody’s prisoner.” It’s a simple statement and might go over a kid’s (or an adult’s) head, but it’s true.
Here’s the thing though, and I’m disappointed to say this: In my opinion, the movie was choppy, muddy, and boring. There were side stories that seemed totally unrelated; there were back stories that were never explained. Things were done that seemed out of place for the characters and for the story itself. I’ve never read the book, and maybe it’s amazing on paper. I’d be more than willing to read it and find out. But for me, the movie was a huge letdown.
I give it 1.5/5 stars.