An earful and eyeful of fun

Dec. 22, 2008, midnight | By Poorna Natarajan | 15 years, 5 months ago

"The Tale Of Desperaux" is a unique work of art

With sweet rodents and much sought after soup, the animated feature "The Tale of Desperaux" may be reminiscent of Pixar's "Ratatouille." However, this fairytale focuses less on culinary success but rather on longing and hope – feelings that are all-too familiar in the literary world and even amidst the economic turmoil of today.

Using Kate DiCamillo's Newberry Medal-winning book as a blue print, the film orchestrates three plots that center around Princess Pea (Emma Watson): the desire of Desperaux (Matthew Broderick), a mouse with courage as large as its ears, to become her gallant knight, the dreams of peasant girl Miggery Sows (Tracey Ullman) to become a princess like Pea and the wishes of grief-stricken rat Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) for Pea's forgiveness after a fatal accident.

Unfortunately, Directors Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen fail to effectively unite the three plotlines into a single story, leaving viewers, especially children as young as five, befuddled. But "The Tale of Desperaux" is still able to reflect the depth and intricacy of the novel, overshadowing the mechanical problems in plot construction. A central conflict that the trio - Desperaux, Miggery and Roscuro - face is stepping away from the bounds of a dictated lifestyle. Desperaux, for example, is as mentally different from the average mouse as he is physically. As young mouse, brave Desperaux fails to scurry, cover and simply conform to the timid model of a mouse, resulting in hushed parent-teacher conferences at mouse school and an eventual banishment from "Mouseworld."

While properly realizing the underlying theme of overcoming society's code of conduct, "The Tale of Desperaux" offers visual depth. Unlike recent animated films, the color palette is muted, fittingly complementing the plot's setting of the archaic Medieval times. Every fine detail, like mice's whiskers and the yarn from a spool, is beautifully accounted and displayed. The well-done computer generated imagery transcends appearance, as it helps incorporate light as a central symbol in the film of hope, happiness and good.

The talented cast is amazing as well – each appropriately voices their respective animated figure. Broderick captures Desperaux's innocence, romanticism and charm. Watson, moving on from Harry Potter, emotionally portrays Princess Pea as the damsel in distress, while adding an unintentional comedic element to her cliché character. However, it is Hoffman who steals the show. Hoffman delivers an exceptional performance in conveying the psychological complexities of Roscuro with only his voice.

Though the "The Tale of Desperaux" is G-rated, the superb animations and dark, grim storylines might be able to instigate fear even in older audience members. The fairytale charm of this movie is classic and leaves all loving the cute little big-eared hero called Desperaux.

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