MouseHunt (film)

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Mouse hunt ver4.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Produced by Bruce Cohen
Tony Ludwig
Alan Riche
Written by Adam Rifkin
Starring Nathan Lane
Lee Evans
Vicki Lewis
Maury Chaykin
Christopher Walken
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Phedon Papamichael
Edited by Craig Wood
Distributed by DreamWorks Pictures
Release dates
Running time
99 minutes
Country Ireland
United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $38 million
Box office $122,417,389

MouseHunt is a 1997 Irish/British/American comedy/drama film directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Adam Rifkin and starring Nathan Lane and Lee Evans. It was the first family film to be released by DreamWorks. The film was shot just prior to William Hickey's death.

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When once-wealthy string magnate Rudolf Smuntz (William Hickey) dies, he leaves his outdated string factory and a run-down mansion to his two sons, Lars (Lee Evans) and Ernie (Nathan Lane).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 cockroach incident, Ernie decides that they need to get rid of the rodent. Despite attempting a wide array of methods, including numerous mousetraps and a vacuum cleaner, they fail. 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), 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, but gets tricked onto the dumbwaiter as the mouse sends it on a one-way trip down to its demise. They then hire an eccentric exterminator named Caesar (Christopher Walken) to handle the mouse, though he is severely injured.

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. Elsewhere, Ernie discovers documents about the proposal for the factory and attempts 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 an answering machine 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 forgetting 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. 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.

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 to make a ball of 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."



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 the opening weekend. It wrapped up its run on July 1, 1998 or 27.9 weeks with $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.

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