American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I wonder how Ben learned English. I seem to recall from "Willard," last summer's big rat movie, that Willard trained Ben to heel, beg, roll over, play dead and sic Ernest Borgnine. Not bad for a rat. But when did Ben learn English? It takes Berlitz six weeks of intensive training to get a French businessman to the point where he can proposition a girl on Rush St. -- and here's Ben learning instinctively.
Ben also talks in his new movie. It's hard to understand what he says, however, because all he does is squeak in various octaves. He sounds like Rubber Ducky being goosed. The movie's hero is Danny, an 8-year-old with a heart condition. Danny loves Ben. Danny apparently understands Rubber Ducky talk, too, maybe because he's a graduate of 'Sesame Street.' Do you ever get the feeling that when the Earth is finally conquered, it won't be by rats but by tiny, beady-eyed, preschool super-intelligences, who attack us with atomic alphabets?
Ben and his friends head for the sewers and plan their assault on mankind. This involves being thrown through the air by invisible animal trainers so that they land on-camera and scare hell out of sewer workers. Everyone knows this is nonsense. If Art Carney could go down in the sewers day after day and fearlessly face alligators, what's a few billion rats?
Doesn't matter, though. This isn't a thriller but a geek movie. In a thriller, we're supposed to be scared by some awesome menace to mankind -- the Green Blob maybe, or Big Foot, or the Invincible Squid and his implacable enemy, red wine sauce. But in a geek movie, the whole idea is to be disgusted because the actors have rats all over them.