Opening 19 Mar 2009
Writing credits: Kate DiCamillo, Will McRobb, Gary Ross, Chris Viscardi
Principal actors: Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Emma Watson, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Kline
Dor, where soup is revered, is a faraway sun-drenched kingdom filled with merriment. One fateful Soup Day the Queen has a tragic accident involving Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman), a rat desperate to escape his murky subterranean confines. Gloom settles over the kingdom; the King is grief-stricken, Princess Pea (Emma Watson) despondent. Despereaux (Matthew Broderick), a tiny mouse with enormous ears and a heart to match, gallantly offers to help Roscuro atone, yet their quest takes each in a distinctly personal direction.
Sigourney Weaver's wry narration helps us navigate the ensuing adventures, a dense tangle of subplots with a myriad of characters above and below ground. To name but a few: Castle chef Andre (Kevin Kline) and his strange genie Boldo (Stanley Tucci), Despereaux’s anxious parents (Frances Conroy and William H. Macy), a Ratworld out of control under villianous King Rat Botticelli (Ciarán Hinds) and ungainly potato-faced Miggery Sow (Tracey Ullman), a servant who dreams of being a princess.
The award-winning children’s book by Kate DiCamillo is engagingly brought to life. The excellent voice talent as well as an artistic animation style that is unique, beautifully executed and employs rich visual contrasts, is enhanced by William Ross’s original score. Crippling this piercingly complex, dark yet redemptive fairytale is the muddled, meandering screenplay. Given there are two rodent heroes, perhaps directors Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen would have met their challenge better with two films. Audiences would not tire of such classy animation. (Marinell Haegelin)