Friday, August 1, 2014
The Tale of Despereaux (2008)
I have no idea when I last saw an animated film this complex made in the US. I mean that in a good way. I also have to wonder when was the last time I saw a real meaty fairy tale on screen, Strings perhaps (oh what a great double feature that will be) How the heck do I explain this simply? I have no idea. Perhaps by saying this is the story of a mouse named Despereaux who isn't afraid of anything, who reads the stories of a knights and chivalry and takes an oath to be a gentlemen, who helps a princess trapped in a castle and a kingdom caught in gloom.
One of the most beautiful animated films, possibly the best looking computer animated film yet with a lush scheme that makes it look like various paintings by people like Vermeer. At other times this is the equivalent of book illustrations come to life. As good as the trailers look the film itself is even better. If you love art (both fine and animated, see this film since the film references numerous works.
For the most part this is a beautifully adapted film that is like curling up with a good book.Where recent films like City of Ember or Twilight or even the Harry Potter films have links to their source novels that make them less then stand alone movies, this film takes the book and puts it on the screen and doesn't dumb it down or make it so you need to have read the book. You have real fleshed out characters of surprising complexity (What is a character like Dustin Hoffman's doing in a film that is "for children?" I don't care frankly because its wonderful). These are not one note sketches but living breathing people. It doesn't rush things, this is a film that takes its time telling the story and requires you actually pay attention. Despereaux doesn't show up for at least fifteen minutes as we get a long run up of why things are the way they are.Its wonderful since it beautifully lays out the world we are walking through. Its a real fairy tale movie that is much more complex than anything that Disney has been churning out, or even Pixar with the film juggling several story lines- Despereaux,Roscuro(Hoffman), the maid, the Princess- all at the same time all seeming to get an equal amount of weight to their telling. It wonderful.
Unfortunately the film has one flaw that keeps it from being perfect.(This is a POTENTIAL SPOILER so you may not want to read this bit) There is a moment or two after the meeting of Roscuro and the Princess when the climax of the film is set in motion when it felt like something was left out. How does all of the villainy transpire? Its not fully clear and on some level I couldn't completely go with it to the next level. Its like coming to a canyon and you have to bridge it, but you suddenly find yourself on the other side without knowing how you got there. its the sort of thing that made the almost 10 out of ten film closer to 8 out of 10. (END OF SPOILER) Yes I really liked it. Yes I think you should see it, especially if you like really good fairy tales or stories that are not simple or simplistic. Its a wonderful movie.