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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Gore Verbinski|
|Written by||Adam Rifkin|
|Music by||Alan Silvestri|
|Edited by||Craig Wood|
|Distributed by||DreamWorks Pictures|
|Box office||$122.4 million|
MouseHunt is a 1997 American comedy film directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Adam Rifkin and starring Nathan Lane and Lee Evans, and featured William Hickey, who died shortly after the film was shot. It was the first family film to be released by DreamWorks.
In the story, two Laurel-and-Hardy-like brothers struggle against one small house mouse for possession of a house that was willed to them by their father. The intelligent and crafty mouse outwits them completely. The film is set in a humorously indeterminate 20th century time period, with styles ranging from the 1940s to the 1970s to the 1990s.
When once-wealthy string magnate Rudolf Smuntz (William Hickey) dies, he leaves his outdated string factory and a run-down mansion to his two sons, Lars (Lee Evans) and Ernie (Nathan Lane). When Lars refuses a proposal by representatives from the large Zeppco conglomerate to purchase their string factory, his greedy wife April (Vicki Lewis) promptly throws him out. Meanwhile, Ernie serves Mayor McKrinkle (Cliff Emmich) at his restaurant in anticipation of becoming a famous chef for serving such a high-profile guest. However, the mayor is poisoned by a cockroach (which came from Rudolf's old box of Cuban cigars that Ernie took for himself) and suffers two heart attacks. As a result, the mayor dies, Ernie's restaurant is closed down by the Board of Health, and he too is out on the street.
Both homeless and jobless, Ernie and Lars are forced to live in the mansion together. Finding blueprints of the mansion, they discover that it is a lost masterpiece designed by famous architect Charles Lyle LaRue. Alexander Falko (Maury Chaykin), a wealthy LaRue collector makes a proposal, but Ernie refuses under the belief they can make a larger profit by restoration and auction. However, the brothers have already realized that the house has one stubborn occupant: a tiny and treacherous mouse. Fearing a repeat of the cockroach incident, Ernie decides that they need to get rid of the rodent.
When a single mousetrap proved to be useless against the mouse, Ernie and Lars cover the entire kitchen floor with a number of mousetraps, but end up trapped in the kitchen when they realize the door is locked. The next morning, the mouse slips through the maze of traps with ease, and safely from on top of a kitchen shelf, drops a cherry, setting off the mousetraps in a dominoes effect. The brothers (with mousetraps hanging on to their skin and clothes) grab a vacuum cleaner and chase the mouse, and almost succeed in catching the "pest" when they jam the vacuum tube into a crack in the wall, unaware that they had put the tube in the sewage pipe. Human waste fills up the vacuum cleaner, and the brothers turn around only to get oozed up by the exploding vacuum.
To make their situation worse, Ernie borrows $1,200 against the house mortgage to buy a jacuzzi tub (which is lost to the bottom of a frozen nearby lake after another encounter with the mouse), and the bank threatens to foreclose on the house in two days unless they reimburse the money. The brothers purchase a monstrous cat named "Catzilla" to deal with the mouse while they set out to find a way to pay the mortgage. Catzilla chases the mouse throughout the house while destroying everything, but gets tricked onto the house's dumbwaiter as the mouse sends him on a one-way trip down to his demise. They then hire an eccentric exterminator named Caesar (Christopher Walken) to handle the mouse, though he is severely injured, resulting in the loss of the plumbing.
Meanwhile, Lars attempts to raise the money by withholding the salaries of the string factory's employees. The angry employees instead go on strike, and Lars's attempt to run the factory himself ends in disaster, as well as the loss of his clothes while causing damage to the machinery. Elsewhere, Ernie discovers documents about the proposal for the factory and arranges a rendezvous with the Zeppco representatives. However, distracted by two attractive Belgian hair-models named Hilde (Camilla Søeberg) and Ingrid (Debra Christofferson) while he is waiting, he is struck by a bus and rushed to a hospital, missing his appointment. Lars later meets Ernie in the hospital and explains that April, realizing Lars' possible auction profits (and having made love with him upon finding out), has agreed to pay the mortgage off.
Upon returning home to find a banged-up and delirious Caesar being carted away by paramedics, the brothers resume their task to kill the mouse with renewed obsession. When Ernie chases the mouse up a chimney and gets stuck, Lars attempts to light a match while the mouse starts a gas leak, creating a violent explosion that blasts Ernie out of the chimney and into the lake where he lands in his sunken jacuzzi tub. In rage, Ernie grabs a shotgun and fires it at the mouse, accidentally shooting a compressed can of pesticide that Caesar left behind which explodes and blasts a large hole in the floor below them.
As the brothers recover from the blast, Zeppco calls and leaves a message stating that since Ernie never showed up, they have withdrawn their offer to buy the factory. Now angry at each other for all the lies and deception, the brothers start arguing and the subject shifts towards Rudolf, who always favored Lars over Ernie because Lars always embraced his father's interests, and Ernie expresses his frustration at how he was never able to win their father's approval before his death. At the height of their arguments, Lars throws an orange at Ernie, but accidentally hits the mouse and knocks him unconscious and at first they think it is dead. Unable to finish him off, they instead seal the mouse in a box and mail him to Fidel Castro in Cuba. With the mouse seemingly gone and with April having paid off the mortgage, the brothers reconcile again and finish renovating the house.
The night of the auction finally arrives, which is attended by Falko, April, Hilde, and Ingrid, and a wide variety of international multi-millionaires. Falko attempts to get Ernie to call off the auction with a $10 million offer, but Ernie refuses and the auction soon begins. However, Lars discovers the mouse's box in the snow outside, returned due to insufficient postage (as they forgot to weigh it) and with a big hole gnawed through it. Lars and Ernie panic upon seeing the mouse return, but attempt to maintain their composure as the auction continues. The mouse also eats Rudolf's lucky string, which he gave to the brothers before his death, making their vendetta even more personal. When the mouse's antics starts sparking panic and riot in the guests, the brothers desperately attempt to flush out the mouse by feeding a hose into the wall. As the auction reaches a record $25 million bid, the house rapidly floods through the walls and finally the floors, and all the people are washed out of the house as it promptly collapses. Watching as April and all the bidders leave in disgust, the brothers' only consolation is the fact that the mouse must finally be dead as their father's lucky string is found in the wreckage.
With nowhere else to go, the brothers return to the factory and fall asleep, with only a single chunk of cheese for food. The mouse, having followed the brothers, restarts and feeds the cheese into the machinery inventing the world's first string cheese, which inspires Ernie and Lars. In the final scene, Ernie and Lars end their war with the mouse and have successfully rebuilt the factory as a novelty string cheese company. Lars has begun a relationship with Hilde, and Ernie is able to put his culinary skill to work in developing new cheese flavors with the mouse as his personal taste-tester.
The film ends with Rudolf's portrait (which changes emotions throughout the movie) finally smiling, next to a frame containing his lucky string and his life's quote, "A world without string is chaos."
- Nathan Lane as Ernie Smuntz
- Lee Evans as Lars Smuntz
- Vicki Lewis as April Smuntz
- Maury Chaykin as Alexander Falko
- Eric Christmas as Ernie and Lars' lawyer
- Michael Jeter as Quincy Thorpe
- Debra Christofferson as Ingrid
- Camilla Søeberg as Hilde
- Ian Abercrombie as auctioneer
- Annabelle Gurwitch as Roxanne Atkins
- Eric Poppick as Theodore Plumb, the banker
- Ernie Sabella as Maury
- William Hickey as Rudolf Smuntz (this was Hickey's last film before his death)
- Christopher Walken as Caesar the Exterminator
- Cliff Emmich as Mayor McKrinkle
- Frank Welker as Mouse, Catzilla (voice)
MouseHunt received mixed reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 43% of 30 critics had given the film a positive review. The film was a financial success. It was released on December 19, 1997 and opened up in North America at #4 and grossed $6,062,922 in its opening weekend, averaging about $2,817 from 2,152 theaters. In its second weekend, it stayed at #4 and increased by 60 percent, making $9,702,770, averaging about $4,428 from 2,191 theaters, and bringing its 10-day gross to $21,505,569. It closed on July 1, 1998 with a final gross of $61,917,389 in the North American market and $60,500,000 in other territories for a worldwide total of $122,417,389. Its budget was $38 million. The film's distribution rights were transferred to Universal Studios in 2016.
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