Sunday, 27 December 2009

Film Review: THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX (2008)

Directors: Sam Fell & Robert Stevenhagen
Running time: 90 mins (approx)
Certificate (UK): U

Watched on Sky+ Saturday 26th December 2009.


Set in the mythical city of Dor to where a small mouse, Despereaux, is born. He is different to all the other mice in that he doesn’t cower when threatened and is all in all a brave little mouse. Events prior to his birth, however, have shaped the world he lives in. A rat, Roscuro arrived by ship on ‘Royal Soup Day’ and is mesmerised by the aroma of the soup. He finds his way to the Royal dining room and, distracted by the sights, sounds and smells, accidentally falls in the queen’s soup. The queen has a heart attack and dies. Roscuro is chased into a vent that lands him in the deep dark dungeons where the really bad rats live. The king in his grief orders soup to be forbidden and rats banished, and the city falls into eternal darkness and famine. Roscuro meanwhile, meets Botticelli, the brutal leader of the rat world.

In an effort to make Despereaux more like other mice, his brother takes him into the library, where is supposed to nibble the pages of books. Unfortunately, he learns to read and is inspired by tales of knights and their brave deeds. He finds and befriends Princess Pea, who is sad because of the way the city has become. Upon finding out that Despereaux has broken the law by speaking with a human; the Mouse Council banishes him to the dungeons, where he is saved from the other rats by Roscuro. Despereaux tells Roscuro of the princess’s gloom, which touches the rat. Roscuro approaches the princess to apologize, but she is terrified of him and he is chased out. Hurt, he decides to kidnap the princess. He enlists the help of a servant girl, Miggery Sow, whom he later double crosses, and locks in a cell. The princess it taken by the rats and it’s up to Despereaux to rescue her. I think that’s enough of the plot, I don’t want to give away too many spoilers.

This is really a film of two halves, the first half was good, charming and worked, whereas the second half was a bit of a train wreck. Up until the point where Roscuro kidnaps the princess it’s fine, but from that point onwards it becomes a real mess. There are pointless sub-plots and some really crazy characters, not least the vegetable spirit in the kitchen. Decent enough performances from the voice talents of, Matthew Broderick as Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro, Emma Watson as Princess Pea, Tracey Ullman as Miggery Sow, Kevin Kline as Andre, William H. Macy as Lester, Stanley Tucci as Boldo, CiarĂ¡n Hinds as Botticelli, Robbie Coltrane as Gregory and Sigourney Weaver as the Narrator.

To be honest I felt a little disappointed by this film. It showed a lot of promise for the first half, but veered so far off target in the second. The animation was pretty good but the story let it down big style. This is why I find I cannot give it a very high score; I think the report card should read ‘Could do better!’

My score: 5.4/10

IMDb Site:
Official Site:

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