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The Tale of Despereaux(2008)
Tiny and graced with oversized ears, Despereaux was born too big for his little world. Refusing to live his life cowering, he befriends a Princess named Pea and learns to read (rather than eat) books -- reveling in stories of knights, dragons and fair maidens. Banished from Mouseworld for being more man than mouse, Despereaux is rescued by another outcast, Roscuro, who also wants to hear the tales. But when the Princess dismisses Roscuro's friendship, he becomes the ultimate rat and plots revenge with fellow outsider Mig. After Pea is kidnapped, Despereaux discovers he is the only one who can rescue her...and that even the tiniest mouse can find the courage of a knight in shining armor.
For more about The Tale of Despereaux and the The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray release, see the The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on May 21, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Robbie Coltrane, Frances Conroy, Tony Hale, Ciarán Hinds, Dustin Hoffman
Narrator: Sigourney Weaver
Directors: Rob Stevenhagen, Sam Fell
» See full cast & crew
The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Sir Terrence, May 21, 2009
The Tales of Despereaux is a lesson on how not to do storytelling. It looks to me like too many chefs were cooking the soup in separate kitchens, and not really telling what each other is putting in the pot. One director puts an ingredient in the pot, and the other does the same, except that ingredient does not blend well with the first. Now you have a soup with competing non complimentary tastes. Since this is exactly what happens with the two directors - it's no wonder the end product does not taste good, and does not go down well. Directors Robert Stevenhagen and Sam Fell never really worked with the animators to flush things out, as it is reported that this movie was directed by email and videoconferencing. If this was the case it showed on the screen, as the story meanders like the mighty Mississippi River going here and there at random. There are scenes where the action demands a re-action, and it does not happen. Many competing and unrelated elements contaminate the story line, which conspires to confuse and bewilder the viewer. There are too many characters, too many sub plots, and all are glossed over without any exploration or explanation. It tries too hard to be a classic to the point it just turns out to be a mess. The story takes too long to develop, and when it does, it feels like we are going down a rabbit hole of nonsense. I had to work far too hard to figure out what is going on, to the point where it was exhausting.
This film was not all bad though. My god-children watched it with me the first time I watched it. They seem to get things I did not, and see things I did not. They did get bored near the end, which I suspect came from the lethargic way that the story is delivered. It relies much too heavily on the narration to guide us through the film, and the characters are left under developed. I admit, the second time I watched it, the movie played much better to me. Things I was confused on the first time, I got the second time so I ended up actually enjoying it. My advice to Stevenhagen and Fell is next time you attempt to cook an animation soup, be in the same kitchen. Chances are the soup will taste better when you are.
Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) lives on a ship that is bound for the Kingdom of Dor. In the kingdom of Dor there is a special day celebrated each year called Soup Day. Each year Chef Andre (Kevin Kline) prepares a special soup for the King and his court to enjoy. Roscuro's curiosity gets the best of him as he falls into the Queen's soup, who then passes out face first into her bowl and dies. The king in his grief bans soup day and rats, and falls into a great depression. On that very day clouds cover the sky and it no longer rains, casting gloom over the kingdom.
A special little mouse named Despereaux (Matthew Broderick) is born. Despereaux is a special mouse, as he does not cower, does not run, and does not appear to be afraid of anything. His ears are larger than other mice, and he is smaller as well. He finds himself gravitating towards the princess, as she is very sad. Mice are not supposed to come near humans, so this trip will cost Despereaux dearly. Unfortunately his lack of fear and his trip to see the princess leads to him getting banned from his town. Roscuro finds himself in the bowels of the king's castle, where there are scary bad rats scurry around. He is taken in by a king rat (Peter O'Toole) still feeling guilty for falling in the soup, and ending soup day in the kingdom. When he tries to go to the princess to apologize for what has happened, the princess does not exactly greet him with open arms. Soon Despereaux and Roscuro meet and forge a friendship, and undertake a journey to bring soup and rats back to the kingdom.
The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Tales of Despereaux scampers onto the Blu-ray format in a beautiful 1080p/VC-1 encode, framed in a wide 2:35:1 aspect ratio. What an eye popping treat to behold. While the animation does not have the 3-D sophistication of a Pixar product, it holds its own very well. Sourced direct from the digital master, there is no intrusion of film related artifacts such as pops, grain, scratches or dirt. Images are clean as a whistle, and free of any digital noise. Detail and small detail are finely rendered, showing the details in the clothing, individual mouse whiskers, and even down to the eyebrows of the princess. Perfect contrast and deep inky blacks make for highly dynamic punchy images that span the entire grayscale. Character's shadows against walls and the ground are well captured, which lends a realistic quality to the presentation. The color palette is wide, but more subdued than normally found on animation titles. It works well with the old Europe look of the entire film. This flick has a unique very complimentary look that serves the story well.
The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Featuring a 24/48 kHz bit and sample rate lossless DTS-HD Master Audio track, The Tales of Despereaux has a finely crafted mix that matches the visuals with perfection. The mix is subtle and does not attempt to hit you over the head, or get in your face. The subtleties of this track are best demonstrated by the creaking ship in the opening, the sound of dripping water echoing through the catacombs where the mice and rats live, and the sound of rat feet scurrying all around the sound field. The film's score is exceptionally well recorded, with a very deep and wide frontal sound stage wrapping nicely into the surrounds. Foley sounds are highly directionalized and very well recorded, rendering scurrying mice feet, the brush of clothing, and the subtle sounds of simmering soup with total clarity. Dialog is clean and clear and well integrated within the overall mix. The LFE is not frequently used, but when it fires up, there is bass that extends to below 25 Hz at high levels. Overall this sound track is ultra clean and serves the visuals very well.
The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Making of the Movie (HD 11 minutes) is a pretty standard documentary with cast and crew interviews, production stories, and the obligatory pats and compliments from the cast.
Sneak Peek at 'Curious George 2: Follow That Monkey' (HD 10 minutes) is a sneak preview of the direct to disc sequel of the first Curious George movie.
Top 10 Uses for Oversized Ears (HD 1 minute) shows us the many ways Despereaux uses his big oversized ears.
The following features can be accessed via the U-Control featured found on most Universal Blu-ray releases.
Deleted Songs (HD 4 minutes)
Scene Progressions (HD 35 minutes) demonstrates how a few scenes progressed from the script, to storyboard, to rough animation, to more polished animation, to the final lighting pass.
Make Your Own Soup Game (HD 11 minutes) asks you to pick a pair of spices and come up with different soups. Depending on how good the soup is, it'll elicit a delightful response from the king, along with a star rating.
The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
What the creators of this film were trying to do was very ambitious, but largely unsuccessful. While this film is not all bad, it is not that good either. Visually it is a stunning creation, and audibly very satisfying. However following the story is very tedious, as this soup is thick with ingredients that sabotage its taste. After viewing it for the second time, my enjoyment increased a bit - I was able to thin out some of the excess that drained the life out of this movie. This is definitely a kid's flick that I would rent first to get their reaction before purchasing.
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The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Tale of Despereaux Blu-ray Announced - January 29, 2009
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring the animated family film 'The Tale of Despereaux' to Blu-ray on March 17th, day-and-date with the DVD release. Video will be presented in 2.35:1 1080p (a first for a Universal animated film) ...
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