The Tale of Despereaux is a film that desperately wants to be magical. Packed full of imagination and promise, it falls short with some shoddy plot lines and under-developed characters. I wasn’t as offended by the animation as some reviewers have tended to be. The fold-out story book style of some parts I actually found to be inspired. However, it suffers from trying to fit too many worlds and characters into too short a space of time.
Roscuro and Despereaux, Andre the cook, Princess Pea, and Miggery “Mig” Sow offer personality enough, let alone Gregory the jailer, the King, the residents of mouse world (Despereaux’s mother, father, brother, friends, the mayor, teachers etc), Botticelli (the leader of rat world), and Boldo the soup genie. With a run time of only an hour and a half, the film takes only a select few of these characters anywhere interesting. Many are barely revisited after they’re introduced, or if they are, are only mentioned in passing in a rushed, montage “let’s tie up the strings” ending.
Dustin Hoffman is brilliant as Roscuro, and it’s only a shame that he wasn’t given more opportunity to shine. Matthew Broderick’s voice was completely unsuited to the role of a young, cute looking mouse. And Emma Watson I found utterly irritating as the voice of the princess.
Some poor decision making in terms of plot and casting means that this animated tale fails to deliver the enchantment it promises.
FINAL VERDICT: ★★★