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'Despereaux': The Tale Of A Mighty Mouse Indeed

Ever See Such A Sight? Little Despereaux approaches the world with wide-eyed (and wide-eared) curiosity. Universal Pictures hide caption

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Universal Pictures

Ever See Such A Sight? Little Despereaux approaches the world with wide-eyed (and wide-eared) curiosity.

Universal Pictures

The Tale of Despereaux

  • Directors: Sam Fell
       Robert Stevenhagen
  • Genre: Animated Adventure
  • Running Time: 93 minutes

Rated G for innocent curiosity, voracious reading and adorable bravery.

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'Do You Have Any More?'

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We Who Are About To Die...

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An Audience With The King

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M-I-C-K-E-Y ... While the rest of his mouse friends eat books at the library, Despereaux decides he'd rather read them. Universal Pictures hide caption

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Universal Pictures

M-I-C-K-E-Y ... While the rest of his mouse friends eat books at the library, Despereaux decides he'd rather read them.

Universal Pictures

Medieval Mouse: Intrepid Despereaux, capably voiced by Matthew Broderick, sets out on a quest to save an imperiled princess. Universal Pictures hide caption

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Universal Pictures

Medieval Mouse: Intrepid Despereaux, capably voiced by Matthew Broderick, sets out on a quest to save an imperiled princess.

Universal Pictures

The title character in The Tale Of Despereaux is an almost unbearably cute baby mouse with enormous ears — and a healthy curiosity about the world.

You would think that's a good thing, but curiosity can lead to nonconformity, and even boldness. And those are just not mouse-y characteristics, as Despereaux learns — or rather, doesn't learn — in school.

The teacher holds up a picture of a piece of cheese, and there are Ohhhhhs and Ahhhhs and Mmmmms.

Then the teacher holds up a picture of a knife, and the whole class dives under desks — and stays there, except for our intrepid little hero.

"Despereaux, you didn't cower," says his teacher. "It's a carving knife! It's dangerous."

"It's beautiful," says Despereaux. "Do you have any more?"

Something similar happens when he's taken to the library. The other mice are just hungry, but Despereaux is hungry for knowledge. So while they devour pages, he devours stories — about chivalry and courage, loyalty and justice. And in short order, he's integrating what he learns from books with his life.

He pursues, in other words, a life of the mind. Which is not, let's concede, the stuff most animated movies are good at animating. He's not a kung fu mouse, or a surfing mouse, or a mouse who loves to cook. He's interested in words and ideas.

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The filmmakers have given Kate DiCamillo's children's story a velvety array of images, much like the ones in the book, and capable voices — Matthew Broderick as Despereaux, Dustin Hoffman as a duplicitous rat, and Sigourney Weaver as a narrator who keeps prodding the story back to life.

But they're a bit laid-back about plot, trudging through a lot of exposition about soup, dark days in the kingdom and princess-wannabes before they even get to the hero.

Which might make The Tale Of Despereaux a little slow for the very youngest kids — though the messages it imparts are certainly ones you'll want them to hear.