It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"The Tale of Despereaux" is one of the most beautifully drawn animated films I've seen, rendered in enchanting detail and painterly colors by an art department headed by Oliver Adam. With a story centering on a big-eared little mouse named Despereaux, a sniffy rat named Roscuro and various other members of the animal and vegetable kingdoms, it is a joy to look at frame by frame, and it would be worth getting the Blu-ray to do that.
I am not quite so thrilled by the story, which at times threatens to make Gormenghast seem straightforward. There are three societies with interconnections (mouse, rat and human), plus a man made of vegetables who possibly runs his social life out of the produce market and maybe dates dates. Very old joke:
You got dates?
I got no dates. mister.
Then you got nuts?
Hey, mister! If I had nuts, I'd have dates!
Roscuro (with a Ratso voice by Dustin Hoffman) is first on the scene, racing from a ship in port to sniff at the kingdom's annual spring festival, celebrated by the royal chef Andre (Kevin Kline) by creating a new soup to be shared by every citizen. Alas, he falls in the soup of the queen, who then falls in the soup herself and puts the king in mourning. The king then banishes soup and rats from his realm, which is little matter to the rats, who have a highly evolved civilization somewhere belowstairs.