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The Great Mouse Detective(1986)
Basil, the rodent Sherlock Holmes, investigates the kidnapping of a toy-maker and uncovers its link to his archenemy, Professor Ratigan.
For more about The Great Mouse Detective and the The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray release, see the The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on October 15, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Vincent Price, Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, Alan Young, Laurie Main, Basil Rathbone
Directors: Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, David Michener, John Musker
» See full cast & crew
The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray Review
"On the contrary! The game's not over yet!"
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, October 15, 2012
Sherlock Holmes is in the midst of yet another pop culture resurgence. Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr. have brought the titular master sleuth back to the big screen. Twice. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have transplanted Holmes and Watson into the modern age in the BBC's terrific Sherlock series. And Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu are giving it a go on CBS with the viable but still-unproven Elementary. It's only fitting then that Disney's 26th animated feature, The Great Mouse Detective, is at long last making its Blu-ray debut. It isn't the finest film in Disney's animated canon, or even the studio's finest classic feature of the '80s, an honor that belongs to The Little Mermaid, the first cornerstone in the Disney Renaissance. But it is an entertaining little adventure, full of sleuthy fun, action-packed mystery and pint-sized peril primed for kids of all ages.
Based on Eve Titus' "Basil of Baker Street" book series, The Great Mouse Detective tells the tale of a mouse named Basil (voiced by Barrie Ingham) who just so happens to live at 221B Baker Street, in a warm, cozy hole beneath the home of famed detective Sherlock Holmes. Though a bit manic, Basil is as brave and brilliant as Holmes, willing to take on the toughest cases, particularly those involving his sworn nemesis, the mad Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price). When the evil genius kidnaps a toymaker (Alan Young) and demands he build a robotic replica of the Mouse Queen (Eve Brenner) -- in a nefarious plot to take over England, of course -- the toymaker's young daughter Olivia (Susanne Pollatschek) seeks out Basil in the hopes that the mouse detective can find her father. Basil, in turn, elicits the help of British Army Major and doctor David Q. Dawson (Val Bettin), Holmes' Basset Hound Toby and Olivia herself to stop Ratigan and his henchman, among them right-hand bat Fidget (Candy Candido) and pet cat Felicia, from gaining control of the mouse throne.
If The Great Mouse Detective strikes you as brisker and bristlier than the films that immediately preceded it (beloved favorite The Fox and the Hound and critically panned box office bomb The Black Cauldron), you can thank co-directors Burny Mattinson, David Michener, Ron Clements and John Musker. If the names Clements and Musker sound familiar, it's because they should. The pair went on to direct both The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, both of which left a lasting stamp on Disney Animation. In many ways, The Great Mouse Detective finds the Disney duo doing what they do best: infusing an animated film with real momentum, both narratively and visually. Disney's 26th animated feature clips along without a shot or scene to spare, and Clements and Musker don't waste any time establishing the rules of Basil and Ratigan's cat-n-mouse game. If it isn't a narrow escape from a death trap, it's a kidnapping, an excitable hunt for clues, a bar brawl, a shocking setup, a mechanical coup, a hot air balloon chase, a dizzying climb up the gears of Big Ben, or a harrowing battle above the city on the hands of the tower's clock. The story itself is rather slight -- too slight I'd argue -- but there are enough endearing character beats, cerebral gymnastics, daring heroics and satisfying reunions to ensure the adventure is never anything less than thrilling.
As essential animated classics go, though, The Great Mouse Detective doesn't linger in the imagination. It's cute, ever so clever even, and hints at a series of sequels that sadly never came to be. Yet it never quite steps out of the shadow of Sherlock Holmes, nor does it have the unforgettable connective character tissue the Disney Greats boast. In scurrying from story point to story point, Basil and Dawson have little time to relish their roles as Holmes and Watson in miniature, and even less time to do anything other than react to Ratigan's sinister schemes. Actual mystery-solving is abandoned long before the archenemies come face to face, and action supplants careful storytelling far more often than not. Disney Animation was obviously eager to prove it could still succeed with feature films, especially on the heels of The Black Cauldron, and the characters take a back seat to all the excitement. The result? Kids will eat up every second while adults longing for more substance will place The Great Mouse Detective among their second or third tier favorites.
The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray, Video Quality
Disney deals in two kinds of restorations: complete Diamond Edition overhauls a la Cinderella, which sometimes rub ultra-purists the wrong way (for legitimate reasons), and more minimalistic remasters like The Great Mouse Detective and its 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer, which tend to underwhelm the casual enthusiast (also for legitimate reasons). Though notably softer and grainier than some may prefer, the studio's latest is quite true to its original film elements, flaws and all. Remaining scratches, lines and other blemishes aren't all that distracting, but they aren't exactly in short supply either. Likewise, contrast inconsistencies aren't terribly problematic, but they are more widespread than I would've preferred. Even so, there's something to be said for such a faithful remaster, even if it isn't as visually striking as other animated presentations. Colors have been preserved, without fundamental alteration; black levels are deep and inky, without any loss in fine line detail (as far as I can see); and the integrity of the animators' line art, which by its very nature is neither crisp nor clean, is satisfying, without the use of any unsightly edge enhancement. Minor variations in cel-to-cel color fills produces area-specific flickering of sorts, but it too is a product of the source. As to the encode itself, there isn't any significant banding, macroblocking, aliasing or errant noise to report. Further study may be required to determine just how faithful the presentation is, but all signs point to this being a solid, just not spectacular showing for Basil and company.
The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track doesn't disappoint. It just isn't all that thrilling either. The rear speakers are used sparingly but to responsible effect. LFE output is assertive enough to please but not aggressive enough to convey the full weight of Big Ben's massive gears. And dialogue, while a touch smothered on occasion, is clean, clear and grounded nicely in the cozy mouse holes, bustling underground locales and looming towers of Detective's Victorian England. Hiss and other noise has been minimized without sacrificing fidelity, and dynamics, pans and other elements are more than serviceable. Jaw dropping? Hardly. A successful six-channel presentation of a 1986 animated feature's original sound design? Most definitely.
The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Not much on the supplemental front, I'm afraid. There's a much too brief "Making of The Great Mouse Detective" featurette (SD, 8 minutes), a "So You Think You Can Sleuth?" rundown of crimes and crime-solving through the ages (SD, 5 minutes), and a "World's Greatest Criminal Mind" sing-along (SD, 2 minutes).
The Great Mouse Detective Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Great Mouse Detective isn't an undisputed classic, but it is a pre-Disney Renaissance delight with plenty of charm and adventure ideal for kids of any age. And while children will enjoy it more, adults -- particularly those weened on Disney's 26th animated feature and its brethren -- will find plenty to love too. No, Basil and Dr. Dawson's Blu-ray debut isn't stunning or enveloping, but both its video transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio track offer a faithful, proficiently encoded presentation of the film. My only complaint? More extras would have been appreciated. More to the point, more content would have made the "Mystery in the Mist Edition" more deserving of its special edition title. If you have any affection for The Great Mouse Detective, a purchase is a no-brainer.
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