Posted: 04/12/2009


The Tale of Despereaux

by Laura Tucker

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I’ve mentioned before the list of ingredients for a successful animated film. Disappointingly, while The Tale of Despereaux employs the voice work of big name stars and is adapted from an award-winning children’s book, it’s devoid of humor and memorable lines and really only has one cute character.

We have some great recognizable voices in Despereaux, including Matthew Broderick voicing the title role, with the additional voices of Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Emma Watson, Christopher Lloyd, Tracy Ullman, and William H. Macy. Those names alone are enough to draw anyone to a theater or to pick up a DVD and throw it into their shopping cart.

They story is based on the book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo. While I have never read the book, my teenage son has, and was disappointed to find that the movie didn’t follow the book very closely. Despereaux is a mouse who has been born too small and with outrageously large ears. He also has no fear, worrying his parents, as fear is something integral for a mouse’s survival. He reads books instead of eating them, and learns of medieval themes of knights and castles.

This brings Despereaux to Princess Pea, who would like for life in her kingdom to return to normal. A rat, Roscuro, had been drawn to the smell of a soup in the castle’s kitchen, and unwittingly caused the queen to drop dead of a heart attack in her soup, causing the king to outlaw soup and rats. Roscuro teams up with Desperaux to restore the kingdom to its onetime glory.

Not only is this tale devoid of humor, its extremely dark, much too much so for young children, with the death themes throughout the film, as it really doesn’t stop there with the queen having a heart attack in her soup. I know medieval themes can be a little dark, but there needs to be some fantasy involved, and there really isn’t.

On top of this, the only cute character is Desperaux with his obscenely large ears and almost as large eyes. The other characters, including the other mice, the rats, and the humans, aren’t cute at all. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot here to draw young children in, which is the real shame of the film, since it seems designed to promote reading with children. I just don’t see them being urged to pick up a book after seeing this.

Laura Tucker  is the webmaster of Reality Shack and its accompanying Reality Shack Blog, provides reviews at Viewpoints, and provides entertainment news pieces at Gather. She is also an Associate Instructor and 2nd dan black belt in tae kwon do with South Elgin Martial Arts. Laura can be reached at

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