The Tale of Despereaux

Fans of this popular children's book will probably see some glaring additions or omissions, but the rest of us were happy with this tale of an unlikely alliance of creatures who strive to do what is courageous and honorable. The production company is NOT Disney, but the nuances of character are beautifully developed and the roster of A-List actors providing the voice talent is noteworthy!

Matthew Broderick ("The Producers") is Despereaux, a young mouse who simply cannot grasp the basics of mousehood, e.g., fear of knives, cats and humans. He doesn't skitter and isn't interested in learning. He would rather READ a book than EAT it, and he is inspired by the brave knights and handsome princes from the fairy tales he reads. His teacher is frustrated and his parents despair. As a result, he is banished from Mouseworld.
  • Sigourney Weaver ("Baby Mama") provides the narration. The sound was so low, I heard maybe every tenth word. Aarghhh!
  • CiarĂ¡n Hinds ("Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day") is Botticelli
  • Dustin Hoffman ("Stranger than Fiction") is Roscuro
  • Emma Watson ("Harry Potter") is Princess Pea
  • Tracey Ullman ("Tracy Takes On") is Miggery Sow
  • Kevin Kline ("A Prairie Home Companion") is Andre
  • William Macy ("Happy, Texas") is Lester
  • Stanley Tucci ("Kitt Kittredge, An American Girl") is Boldo.
The list goes on and on; because there were so many voices, I confess I finally couldn't tell who was who. One of the main characters is a rat who abandons his ship and becomes a misfit in Ratworld. Another is a chef who creates a soup the entire kingdom depends upon for inspiration and, because of some sort of mystical connection, also for rain and abundance. There is a princess imprisoned in the castle; her father, the king, is in deep mourning because his wife, the queen, was startled by a rat and drowned in her soup (you had to be there).

The humans don't like the rats; the rats don't like the mice; and the mice -- all except Despereaux -- are terrified of everything. At one point, the princess is tethered to the floor in a Lilliputian sort of scene, and, given all the forces arrayed against him, you can't imagine how our little hero will prevail, but prevail he does! One of my favorite through lines is, "Are you a man or a mouse?" Whereupon Despereaux, without a trace of irony, says in all sincerity, "I am a GENTLEman." You really DO root for him.

Happy ending, folks!
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