I wish I could say that The Tale of Desperaux comes to the big screen in thrilling fashion, capitalizing on amazing special effects, a gripping screenplay and a timeless story. Unfortunately, it's a scattered, stretched and unimaginative movie that struggles to keep one's attention.
The Tale of Desperaux is about many things, all of them rehashes of better stories that have come before. There's Roscuro, an ugly but kind little rat who becomes trapped in Ratworld, a Dennis Hopper Waterworld-esque place of shadows, starvation and savagery. Roscuro, responsible for the banishment of soup in the kingdom, only wants to apologize to the princess whose mother he effectively murdered. And then there's Desperaux, a Dumbo-eared little mouse who is either utterly courageous or a sociopath who lacks the emotion of fear.
Some could label the plot as complex; I call it confusing. The title character doesn't appear for over twenty minutes, and is never truly developed. The overlapping character arcs are disjointed and inconsistent, a result of shoving four children's books together without any intelligent crafting to blend the stories together. The plot developments come slowly and without excitement.
"Without excitement" is a key description that applies to the entire movie. "Without humor" is another one. Combine these two and you get "completely dull." The movie lacks adventure, thrills, laughs and all the other things necessary to make an animated children's film successful. The narration is terrible, and its attempts at humor fall flat. When the movie tries to be exciting, it just feels like a television cartoon from twenty years ago. Compare this movie to almost any of the animated films that have come out in the last ten years and The Tale of Desperaux seems woefully outmatched.
Lastly, the animation itself is disappointing. While the film is texture-rich, the actual animation is bland and lifeless. The adventure sequences, regardless of the script, could have been halfway entertaining had some imagination been injected to the process.
The Tale of Desperaux has little going for it, and in fact this movie would have been much better had the title character been subjected to a large mouse trap in the first minute.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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