The chipper cynicism of the "Shrek" movies ($2.2 billion in grosses worldwide) is a popular commodity indeed because
so many cultures share the same fairy tale tropes and enjoy seeing them shot at with a pea shooter.
The success of those films makes it doubly hard for a more earnest, emotional number such as "The Tale of Despereaux"
to gain traction with a mass audience, particularly a mass audience of preteens for whom DreamWorks and Nickelodeon-fed
sarcasm is the default approach to everything.
The film is a mixed but pretty interesting bag, though its G rating may mislead some parents into taking 4- or
5-year-olds to it, which could lead to some freakouts. I freaked out momentarily myself when the savage gladiator
cat threatened to eat our hero, in a scene more appropriate to "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome."
Adapting Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Medal-winning book, the film has some visual distinction and a muted color palette,
unusual in commercial computer animation.
Three worlds coexist in directors Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen's universe. In the human world, the kingdom of Dor,
all sunlight and optimism have vanished ever since a rat, Roscuro, landed from a great height in the queen's soup,
leading to her instant, fatal heart attack and the rat's banishment to the dungeon, or Ratworld. Elsewhere in the
royal castle, in Mouseworld, young Despereaux resists all attempts on behalf of his elders to teach him proper
mouse behavior: scurrying, cowering, fear of humans, that sort of thing.
A romantic and a gallant, Despereaux befriends the princess, but such fraternizing is verboten.
As punishment, our hero is sent to the dungeon. Much of the film takes place there, and a lot of the narrative is grim.
Screenwriter Gary Ross, who wrote "Big," "Dave" and "Pleasantville," misjudges some of his story flourishes, particularly
the gladiatorial battles. This underworld is about as cheery as "Metropolis."
The voice casting lightens the load.
Matthew Broderick's Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman's Roscuro and Emma Watson's
princess offer plenty of feeling and no wisecracking inflections, and even Tracey Ullman -- voicing the princess'
slovenly, dreamy maid, Miggery Sow -- keeps her comic instincts in check. Inspired by the black-and-white Timothy
Basil Ering drawings of the book, the animation creates a world of shadowy menace and melancholy. The king, for
example, is eternally at his lute, consoling himself after the death of his wife.
"The Tale of Despereaux" arrives at its "Gulliver" moment when the rats have tied up the princess and are about to go
all Willard on her. They plan to eat her. To which you can only say: Too much! It's all in the finesse; "Ratatouille,"
another animated feature involving culinary mastery and rodents, had finesse to spare and managed to traverse all sorts
of worlds effortlessly, worlds fraught with adversity but hosted by a similarly can-do hero.
Here, the effort's more visible, and the intensity's misjudged. I admired the craft more than I loved the results.
But "The Tales of Despereaux" is still better-than-average animation.
The Tale of Despereaux Movie Trailer
MPAA rating: G (all ages admitted).
Running time: 1:33.
Starring the voices of: Matthew Broderick (Despereaux); Robbie Coltrane (Gregory); Emma Watson (Princess Pea); Tracey Ullman (Miggery Sow); Kevin Kline (Andre); William H. Macy (Lester); Stanley Tucci (Boldo); Ciaran Hinds (Botticelli); Tony Hale (Furlough); Frances Conroy (Antoinette); Frank Langella (Mayor); Richard Jenkins (Principal); Christopher Lloyd (Hovis); Charles Shaughnessy (Pietro); Sigourney Weaver (Narrator).
Directed by Sam Fell and Rob Stevenhagen; written by Gary Ross, based on the book by Kate DiCamillo; art direction supervised by Olivier Adam; animation supervised by Gabriele Zucchelli; photographed by Brad Blackbourn; edited by Mark Solomon; music by William Ross; produced by Gary Ross and Allison Thomas. A Universal Pictures release
This charmless film concerns two lifelong friends, played by Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway, whose competing weddings, mistakenly scheduled for the same day at Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, turn bride-to-be against bride-to-be. Half the comedies made in Hollywood are based on the premise of boy-men acting like idiots. Switching the gender and toning down the vulgarity to a PG level offers only change, not improvement. Hathaway in particular deserves better material.
Based on a book by Bishop T.D. Jakes, this film is a faith-based love story, secondarily about God's role in the care and feeding of an L.A. couple's turbulent marriage. Thanks to Morris Chestnut, whose warm, easy screen presence was an asset way back in "Boyz N the Hood," and to Taraji P. Henson, a by-the-book scenario (described by screenwriter Brian Bird as "sort of a male version of the film 'Waiting to Exhale'") ends up being pretty entertaining.
However sterling the craftsmanship, the film adaptation of Richard Yates' 1961 novel -- an excoriating portrait of a
mid-1950s marriage built on sticks, straw and delusion -- inflates the meaning and buffs the atmospheric surfaces of
the story, rather than digging into its guts.
But when stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet unleash their
character's demons, "Revolutionary Road" loses its tight, controlled sense of composition and air of solemnity
and, in human terms, matters.
Jim Carrey plays a loan officer who cannot get out of his self-pitying rut three years after a breakup. Then he encounters a self-help guru (Terence Stamp, in his first genuinely funny screen appearance) who challenges his followers to say yes to every single thing that comes their way. Zooey Deschanel plays the love interest, a bohemian L.A. girl.
Clint Eastwood performance as a reclusive Korean War veteran toughing it out in a sketchy Detroit-area neighborhood may well lead to his first Academy Award for acting. After the vets young neighbor (Bee Vang) breaks into his garage to steal the car for which this film is named, our hero sets out to teach the boy how to stand up to his venal gangsta cousins.
Will Smith plays an IRS agent who has committed a terrible deed and appears to be investigating the cases of a carefully selected group of people, including a seriously ill heart patient (Rosario Dawson) and a blind pianist (Woody Harrelson).
The Tale of Despereaux starring Matthew Broderick Movie Review | Michael Phillips Reviews The Tale of Despereaux The Tale of Despereaux Movie Review & Movie Trailer
The Tale of Despereaux stars the voice of Matthew Broderick.
The Tale of Despereaux in Theaters this weekend The Tale of Despereaux movie review and movie trailer