The Tale of Despereaux


Matthew Broderick as Despereaux (voice)
Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro (voice)
Emma Watson as Princess Pea (voice)
Tracey Ullman as Miggery Sow (voice)
Kevin Kline as Andre (voice)
William H. Macy as Lester (voice)
Stanley Tucci as Boldo (voice)
Ciarán Hinds as Botticelli (voice)
Robbie Coltrane as Gregory (voice)
Tony Hale as Furlough (voice)
Frances Conroy as Antoinette (voice)
Frank Langella as Mayor (voice)
Richard Jenkins as Principal (voice)
Christopher Lloyd as Hovis (voice)
Charles Shaughnessy as Pietro (voice)

A fun story, a great cast, and beautiful production design make “The Tale of Despereaux” one of the better animated films if 2008. This is a fun movie for both adults and kids.

Roscuro is not your typical rat. He loves the sun, he is noble, and he loves fine foods. Unfortunately, when his love for the world’s greatest soup causes a tragedy in a fairy tale kingdom, the world becomes dark and dreary. The king banishes all rats as well as soup and the Princess is locked away in the castle. Roscuro is forced into hiding among the dark, evil sewer rats of the kingdom. All seems hopeless until a mouse named Despereaux comes along.

Despereaux is not your typical mouse. While other mice cower, he’s brave. While other mice hide, he craves adventure. While other mice fear the outside world, he is curious to learn more. Despereaux is an oddball among the mice. But when he dares to speak to the Princess, it is the last straw for the other mice. They banish him to the depths of the castle where he must live among the rats.

Despereaux meets Roscuro and a new friendship is born. But will the events set in motion by their meeting forever doom the kingdom or restore light to the land?

“The Tale of Despereaux” is rated G.

What Worked:
“The Tale of Despereaux” is one of those movies that comes along and surprises you. I hadn’t heard much about it before I saw it and I didn’t have particularly high expectations going in to it. But as soon as the fairy tale setting was revealed and Sigourney Weaver started narrating the story, I was hooked. This movie ended up being one of those films that both my kids and I enjoyed.

One of the notable things about “The Tale of Despereaux” is the animation. The design of Rat World, Mouse World, and the kingdom of Dor is quite impressive. There are cool little touches all over the place in the background. Each time one of these worlds is revealed, you feel like you’re entering a whole other movie. The character designs are also quite cool. Despereaux is cute with his big ears. Hovis, the thread-collecting mouse voiced by Christopher Lloyd, is eerie and friendly at the same time. And then there’s the magical creature made out of vegetables named Boldo (voiced by Stanley Tucci). It has been a while since I’ve seen a CG character that made me say, “Wow!” Fortunately, his personality is as interesting as his look.

The film has a fantastic cast. Matthew Broderick brings innocence to Despereaux. Dustin Hoffman makes Roscuro sympathetic and likable, even for a rat. Kevin Kline as Andre and Stanley Tucci as Boldo add a lot of comic relief with their bickering. William H. Macy is funny as Lester, Despereaux’s exasperated father. Throw in additional talents like Robbie Coltrane, Frank Langella, Tracey Ullman, Frances Conroy, Tony Hale, and a bunch of others make a first rate voice cast.

“The Tale of Despereaux” also has some pretty heavy themes for an animated film. Forgiveness and redemption play big parts as well as the usual themes of being yourself, never giving up, and being accepting of others. Those are always good lessons for audiences to hear. But don’t get me wrong… it’s not all moral lessons. It’s quite funny, too. Scenes where the mice cower while Despereaux stands strong are hilarious. Another scene where he battles a mangy cat in a rat arena is also very funny. You’ll find yourself laughing a lot along with your kids.

What Didn’t Work:
“The Tale of Despereaux” does get a tad slow in a few spots. But even though I was worried my 4-year-old was going to get restless, he still sat mesmerized even by the ‘serious’ moments.

I also thought the storyline was a little ambitious in trying to tackle something like 5 different storylines all at once. It’s a lot to take in and it takes a while to see how they’re all connected together. They eventually are all resolved, but some of it seems a little bit of a stretch storywise.

The Bottom Line:
“The Tale of Despereaux” was a fun movie for both kids and adults. If you need to take the family to see something over the Christmas holiday, this is something everyone will likely enjoy. You may not see it on a lot of critics awards lists for the year, but that’s mainly because they wrote it before the year was up. This was one of the better animated films of 2008.