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Still shot from the movie: The Tale of Despereaux.

The Tale of Despereaux

Despereaux (voice of Matthew Broderick) may have been born a mouse, but that doesn't stop him from wanting to explore, read and make friends with a human princess (voice of Emma Watson). However, his unconventional behavior gets him banished to a dungeon where he meets Roscuro the Rat (voice of Dustin Hoffman). Get the movie review and more. »


Overall: A
Violence: B
Sexual Content: A
Language: A
Drugs/Alcohol: A-
Run Time: 94
Theater Release: 18 Dec 2008
Video Release: 07 Apr 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
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Like a square rodent in a round mouse hole, little Despereaux (voice of Matthew Broderick) just doesn't get what his destiny is supposed to be. Growing up in Mouseworld, located just below the Kingdom of Dor, the tiny creature with huge ears simply doesn't have a natural fear of the big, bad outside world. As hard as his father Lester (voice of William H. Macy) tries to convince him that the sight of a carving knife or cat are good reasons to immediately cower, his son instead sees these signs as challenges to overcome. And when it's revealed the young mouse has had contact with humans, the administrators of Mouseworld have no choice but to cast Despereaux into the dungeons below -- a place called Ratworld by the larger rodents living there.

Another recent immigrant to this dank, dark realm is a rat named Roscuro (voice of Dustin Hoffman). Like Despereaux, he too has some strange un-rat-like idiosyncrasies, such as enjoying sunlight. But his biggest weakness is the smell of fine food, especially gourmet dishes made by the Kingdom of Dor's Chef Andre (voice of Kevin Kline). In fact, Roscuro's olfactory senses recently got the better of him during Dor's annual soup celebration. His unrestrained nosedive into the queen's bowl startled the monarch so badly that she died! It also resulted in the king banishing both soup and rats from the land.

Living above all this is Mig (voice of Tracey Ullman), a rather plain peasant girl who dreams of being a princess. When her father decides to trade her off in exchange for goods, she ironically ends up a little closer to her fantasy. Sent to the Castle of Dor, she becomes a servant to Princess Pea (voice of Emma Watson). Yet the more she interacts with royalty, the more her longing turns into coveting and soon she is harboring hard feelings within her heart.

If you think this sounds a lot more complex than most stories featuring cutesy animation -- you're right. And that's rather unfortunate because the 8 to 13 aged crowd, that may feel they are too old for a kid's movie, would really benefit from the messages embedded in the tale. Taking an in-depth look at three divergent individuals, Despereaux explores how each one deals with the expectations of those around them, and provides a wealth of valuable lessons.

Meanwhile, very young children may find the plot too intricate and some scenes a bit frightening. This is especially true as the tiny hero navigates the shady corners of Ratworld, confronts truly sinister characters, and encounters weapon-welding adversaries.

Still, this production is heads and... ahem... tails above most offerings in this genre. Illustrating how the ability to motivate others and exert influence have nothing to do with size, the film demonstrates the power of forgiveness, and how it can open opportunities for growth and overcoming the negative feelings we all deal with from time to time.

The Tale of Despereaux is rated Not Rated:

Cast: Matthew Broderick, Emma Watson, Dustin Hoffman
Studio: 2008 Universal Pictures
Website: Official site for The Tale of Despereaux.

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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