I admit that I didn’t have a whole lot of hope going in to The Tale of Despereaux, a strange little fairy tale involving mice that were entirely too brave for their own good, and royalty whose headgear featured spoons in mass quantities, and needles used as swords.
And yet, when I settled in to watch it, and watched this impressive little animated story that was almost nominated for an Oscar unfold, I was just amazed by it, especially by how it managed to keep so many disparate plot threads straight at once.
What do I mean, you wonder? Simple—there’s a LOT going on in this plot, and it truly is a wonder how they managed to keep it all together. For instance, a rat manages to inadvertently kill the queen of the land of Dor, a land whose specialty is soup. Dorians love soup. It’s their primary industry, conversation topic, commercial product AND art form. Their royalty has soup spoons featured prominently in their crowns. Anyway, as a result of this accidental death, the king of Dor declares both soup AND rats to be illegal, as he blames both for killing his wife. The land goes gray and bleak, and enters a multiple-year drought. Meanwhile, the mice, whose primary export, import, ideology and entire way of life appears to revolve around fear, are hiding out in the walls, as is normal for mice. One mouse, Despereaux, isn’t satisfied with this life, and is thus thrown out of the mouse world to live with the rats. And thus, a quest is born for both Despereaux and the rat that accidentally killed a queen.
There’s actually more to the plot than this—doing a complete synopsis would actually take a lot more room, because like I said, there’s a LOT going on in here. And at first, it will actually seem like they’re jumping around from plot point to plot point with little or no regard for coherence. It’ll seem like that because that’s exactly what they’re doing, but it won’t take long for the whole thing to coalesce into a greater whole. It’s almost like watching a loom or something, where all these threads come together while you watch, and out the other side pops this greater whole. How does this happen? I’m not sure. But I’m sure that I like it, and that’s strange enough.
There’s plenty of great voice acting in here—both Christopher Lloyd and William H. Macy show up in this, and on my own personal scale, that makes this a movie on par with Mongolian barbecue and Harry Turtledove novels. It’s just that awesome. And the graphics are plenty pretty in their own way; sure, it’s not like these are realistic portrayals of mice and rats and such, but if mice and rats and such ever built their own civilizations, they would probably look a lot like this.
For the kids out there, they are going to absolutely love this. But this isn’t just a movie for kids, no sir—this one’s a movie that just about everybody can get a piece of. Doesn’t really matter if you’re young or old, innocent or jaded, lover of fairy tales or raging horror-movie buff, you will find something to like about this movie. The Tale of Despereaux will keep you riveted until its fairly predictable but still rather heartwarming end.