Laura CliffordRoscuro (voice of Dustin Hoffman) is not your average rat, eschewing his fellow rodents and their dank, dark world. Despereaux (voice of Matthew Broderick) is a little mouse with huge ears and a fearless spirit, unlike his brethren mice. Miggery Sow (voice of Tracey Ullman) is a poor, orphaned farm girl employed at the castle as a scullery wench caring for Princess Pea (voice of Emma Watson). Their three lives will collide to return the kingdom to sunshine and happiness that a tragedy took away in “The Tale of Despereaux.”
It is the first Sunday of spring in the tiny kingdom of Doria and that means its time for the highly anticipated Soup Day Festival, when the latest royal soup is introduced. Roscuro comes ashore and is drawn to the smell of the scrumptious potage. His accidental falling into the middle of the festival results in the sudden death of the queen. The king, in despair, bans the festival forever and the kingdom is cast into a never-ending gloom, without sunshine or rain. Roscuro ends up in “the dungeon,” the dark underbelly of the castle where the rats live. His one desire is to be out in the sunshine and have a breeze on his face.
Little Despereaux is unlike any other mouse. While the rest of the mouse population lives in fear of everything his motto is honor, justice, truth and courage. The diminutive D fears nothing and has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Unlike his fellow mice, he would rather read a book than eat one. When the king’s grief envelops Doria, Despereaux makes it his task to return the sunshine and the rain.
Miggery Sow grew up on the pig farm owned by her foster parents. Her big dream is to work and live in the distant castle. When the dream comes true, the reality of her peasant upbringing is obvious, making her jealous and envious of Princess Pea. She, Despereaux and Roscuro become an unlikely trio of heroes that join forces and they fight to restore Doria to its former glory and bring back Soup Day.
As you can tell by the three separate, intertwining plot threads Despereaux’s, Roscuro’s and Miggery’s this is a far more complex anime than the ad campaign implies, which aims at the kiddie audience. The sometimes scary story is, instead, really for older kids and adults. There are too many layers and too much subtlety to this serious animation to keeps the younger tots’ interested.
The 2D animation, though rather darkly hued, is crisp and clear and attentive to details like the hair movement of the title character. Parents beware, “Despereaux” is not for the little ones. But it is a good one for age 10 on up. I give it a B.
Laura did not see this film.
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