The Tale of Despereaux (film)
|The Tale of Despereaux|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sam Fell
|Produced by||Gary Ross
|Screenplay by||Gary Ross|
|Based on||the novel
The Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo
|Narrated by||Sigourney Weaver|
William H. Macy
|Music by||William Ross|
|Editing by||Mark Solomon|
Framestore Feature Animation
Universal Animation Studios
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Release date(s)||December 19, 2008|
|Running time||93 minutes|
The Tale of Despereaux is a 2008 British-American computer-animated film directed by Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen. Loosely based on the 2003 fantasy book of the same name by Kate DiCamillo, the movie is narrated by Sigourney Weaver and stars Matthew Broderick and Emma Watson. It was released on December 19, 2008 by Universal Pictures.
A ship sails into the kingdom of Dor, known for its 'Royal Soup Day.' Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman), a rat, is aboard with a human companion, Pietro.
Roscuro is mesmerized by the aroma of soup being prepared in the castle's kitchens and he escapes Pietro to find the source. In doing so, he finds the castle banquet room and accidentally falls into the Queen's soup after she takes the first sip. The Queen then gets shocked and faints from sheer terror, falls headfirst in her soup bowl and eventually drowns with no one noticing. Meanwhile, Roscuro is being chased about the castle. The chase finally ends when Roscuro falls into a vent and plunges into the dungeons.
The king in his grief orders soup to be forbidden and rats banished. These were the Dark Ages and the town falls into eternal darkness and famine. Roscuro, meanwhile, meets Botticelli (Ciarán Hinds), the brutal leader of the rat world.
A few years later, an adventurous mouse, Despereaux Tilling (Matthew Broderick) is born, and becomes friends with the lonely Princess Pea (Emma Watson). Upon finding out that Despereaux has broken the law by speaking with a human, the Mouse Council banishes him to the dungeons. Antoinette Tilling (Frances Conroy), Despereaux's mother tries to run through to stop the Mouse Council from sending Despereaux into the dungeon, but Lester (William H. Macy), Antoinette's husband, grabs her by the arm, because he cares more about the Mouse Council than he does about Despereaux. In the dungeon, Despereaux is caught, but he is saved by Roscuro from being eaten by the other rats. Despereaux tells Roscuro of the princess's gloom, which touches the rat.
Roscuro approaches the princess to apologize, but she is terrified of him and he is chased out. Hurt, he decides to kidnap the princess. He enlists the help of a servant girl, Miggery Sow (Tracey Ullman), whom he later double crosses, and locks in a cell.
Meanwhile, Despereaux realizes that the princess is in danger. Back in the rat colony, Roscuro sees the apologetic sincerity in Pea's eyes and regrets his actions, but is unable to stop the rats, to whom he has given her, from clambering over her. Roscuro tries to tell the rats that Pea is not bad, but Botticelli does not let him because he wants Pea dead, even going as far as allowing the rats to eat or trample over Pea. Roscoro figures out that Botticelli is a double-crossing traitor and that Pea is doomed. However, little Despereaux lets loose a cat, and the rats run away before the cat goes back into its cage. Roscuro then forces Botticelli into the cage, where he is eaten by the cat.
Mig is later reunited with her father, who recognizes the birthmark on her neck. It finally rains and the sun shines after soup is made for the first time in years. The mice all then try to be more brave like Despereaux. The king is able to overcome his grief and soup and rats were allowed back in the kingdom. Roscuro returns to a life at sea, where there was always light and a gentle breeze, and Despereaux himself takes off on a journey to see the world.
- Matthew Broderick as Despereaux Tilling, a brave but nonconforming mouse who does not run from danger as a mouse should
- Emma Watson as Princess Pea, a human princess who befriends Despereaux
- Robbie Coltrane as Gregory, the jailer and Miggery "Mig" Sow's father
- Frances Conroy as Antoinette, Despereaux's mother
- Patricia Cullen as Queen, a queen who is scared of rats
- Sam Fell as Ned/Smudge
- Tony Hale as Furlough, Despereaux's older brother
- Ciarán Hinds as Botticelli, the leader of the rat world
- Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro, a rat who once lived at sea, and is currently working for Botticelli
- Richard Jenkins as Principal
- Kevin Kline as Andre, the cook
- Frank Langella as Mayor
- Christopher Lloyd as Hovis
- William H. Macy as Lester, Despereaux's father
- Bronson Pinchot as Town Crier
- Charles Shaughnessy as Pietro
- Stanley Tucci as Boldo, the soup genie
- Tracey Ullman as Miggery "Mig" Sow, Princess Pea's servant girl
- Sigourney Weaver as The Narrator
The film's production was marred by disagreements and malpractice, or accusations thereof, between the French, British and North American staff involved. Sylvain Chomet was employed by Gary Ross and Allison Thomas as director early on, before the film was approved for funding by Universal Pictures, with pre-production (including character design, the first drafts of the screenplay written by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and the addition of the original character of Boldo the soup spirit) taking place at his studio Django Films in Edinburgh. Chomet came up against creative and ethical differences with the producers and was eventually fired from the project and thrown out of the studio space allocated to Despereaux. Mike Johnson was also hired as director before the role eventually went to Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen, who, reportedly, had not read the original novel and directed the film, made at Framestore in London, via speakerphone and e-mail.
Home video release 
The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 7, 2009. The Blu-ray release also includes a standard-definition DVD of the film in addition to the Blu-ray Disc. The film brought in a revenue of $25,531,805 in the US DVD sales market.
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 55% of critics gave positive reviews based on 87 reviews. Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a 53/100 approval rating based on 23 reviews.
Many critics praised the film for its excellent animation and the charming title character, but complained that it had an unoriginal and scrambled story. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded three stars and wrote in his review that "The Tale of Despereaux is one of the most beautifully drawn animated films I've seen", but he also wrote "I am not quite so thrilled by the story". Christy Lemire of the Associated Press was more critical, writing that the film "feels obvious, preachy and heavy-handed."
The film opened at the third position behind Seven Pounds and Yes Man with $10,507,000 in 3,104 theaters with an $3,385 average; on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the film was in second. The film closed in March 2009 after grossing $50 million domestically, which was lower than its $60 million budget. The film grossed an additional $37 million overseas for a total of $87 million, making it a modest success.
- The Tale of Despereaux at Box Office Mojo. Retrieved on 2009-01-27.
- Cieply, Michael; Charles Solomon (2008-09-27). "Name game: A tale of acknowledgment for Despereaux". The New York Times. pp. B7. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
- Dan Goldwasser (2008-12-15). "William Ross scores The Tale of Despereaux". ScoringSessions.com. Retrieved 2008-12-15.
- The Tale of Despereaux - Box Office Data, Movie News, Cast Information. The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-10-26.
- "The Tale of Despereaux Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- "The Tale of Despereaux Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- "The Tale of Despereaux :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
- "'Despereaux' feels like a 'Ratatouille' rip-off". 2008-12-17. Retrieved 2010-04-17.
- "Weekend Box Office Results for December 19–21, 2008". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-12-21.