The Tale of Despereaux
is a 2008 computer-animated film
and Robert Stevenhagen
. Loosely based on the
book of the same name
by Kate DiCamillo
, the movie is narrated by
and stars Matthew Broderick
and Emma Watson
. Released on December 19
, the film was
by the MPAA
and was sent by Universal Pictures as a contender for the
possibility of being nominated for the Oscar
for Best Animated Feature
, though it did
not get the nomination.
The film opens with a ship sailing into the kingdom of Dor, known
for its 'Royal Soup Day.' Roscuro (Dustin
), a rat, is aboard with a human companion,
Roscuro is mesmerized by the aroma of soup being prepared in the
castle's kitchens and he escapes Pietro to find the source. In
doing so, he finds the castle banquet room and falls into the
Queen's soup after she takes the first bite. The Queen then has a
heart attack, falls headfirst in her soup bowl and eventually
drowns with no one noticing. Meanwhile, Roscuro is being chased
about the castle. The chase finally ends when Roscuro falls into a
vent and plunges into the dungeons.
The king in his grief orders soup to be forbidden and rats
banished, and the town falls into eternal darkness and famine.
Roscuro meanwhile, meets Botticelli (Ciaran
), the brutal leader of the rat world.
A few years later, an adventurous mouse, Despereaux Tilling
) is born, and
becomes friends with the lonely Princess Pea (Emma Watson
). Upon finding out that Despereaux
has broken the law by speaking with a human, the Mouse Council
banishes him to the dungeons, from where he is saved by Roscuro.
Despereaux tells Roscuro of the princess's gloom, which touches the
Roscuro approaches the princess to apologize, but she is terrified
of him and he is chased out. Hurt, he decides to kidnap the
princess. He enlists the help of a servant girl, Miggery Sow
), whom he later double
crosses, and locks in a cell.
Meanwhile, Despereaux realizes that the princess is in danger. Back
in the rat colony, Roscuro sees the apologetic sincerity in Pea's
eyes and regrets his actions, but is unable to stop the rats, to
whom he has given her, from clambering over her. Here Despereaux
comes to the rescue, letting loose a cat. Roscuro causes Botticelli
to run into the cat's cage for a fatal end. The battle over, he
finally apologizes, and is forgiven.
In the end, Mig is rescued by the jailer, who is revealed to be her
father, and Roscuro is reunited with Pietro. The princess and the
king decide to soothe their grief by relying on each other for
support. Despereaux, reunited with his family, remains close
friends with the princess.
Princess Pea (Emma Watson) and
Despereaux (Matthew Broderick)
- Matthew Broderick as
Despereaux Tilling, the protagonist of the film. He is a brave but
nonconforming mouse who does not run from danger as a mouse should.
Despereaux is born 20-30 minutes into the film. When Princess Pea
is placed in the dungeon and kidnapped by the rats, Despereaux must
rely on his courage and wits to save her.
- Dustin Hoffman as Roscuro, a rat
who once lived at sea, and is currently working for Botticelli.
Later in the film, he runs into the princess; much to his terror,
she tries to have him killed. He then plots to kidnap the Princess,
and manipulates Mig into helping him. He eventually realizes the
error of his ways and helps Despereaux defeat the villainous
- Emma Watson as Princess Pea, a human
princess who befriends Despereaux.
- Tracey Ullman as Miggery "Mig"
Sow, Princess Pea's servant girl. She feels discontented with her
role as a slave, and wants to become a princess herself, something
that Roscuro uses to his advantage.
- Kevin Kline as Andre
- William H. Macy as Lester
- Stanley Tucci as Boldo
- Ciaran Hinds as Botticelli, the
leader of the rat world, and the story's principal antagonist.
During his first run-in with Despereaux, he tries to have him
killed by way of his unnamed pet cat. Later on, when the princess
is kidnapped, he orders the rats to eat her. He is defeated when he
gets eaten by his own pet cat.
- Robbie Coltrane as Gregory
- Tony Hale as Furlough
- Frances Conroy as Antoinette
- Frank Langella as Mayor
- Richard Jenkins as
- Christopher Lloyd as
- Sigourney Weaver as The
- Patricia Cullen as Queen
- Sam Fell as Ned/Smudge
- Bronson Pinchot as Town
- Charles Shaughnessy as
This was Universal's first animated film to be filmed in a 2.35:1 widescreen
format. Its production was marred by
disagreements and malpractice, or accusations thereof, between the
French, British and North American staff involved. Sylvain Chomet was employed by Gary Ross and
Allison Thomas as director early on, before the film was approved
for funding by Universal Pictures, with pre-production (including
character design, the first drafts of the screenplay written by
Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi and the addition of the original
character of Boldo the soup spirit) taking place at his studio
Django Films in Edinburgh.
He came up against creative and ethical
differences with the producers, was found to be using budget
intended for Despereaux
to fund his own traditional animation
film The Illusionist
was being developed simultaneously on another floor of the same
studio, and was eventually fired from the project and thrown out of
the studio space allocated to Despereaux
. Mike Johnson was also hired as
director before the role eventually went to Sam Fell and Robert
Stevenhagen, who, reportedly, had not read the original novel and
directed the film, made at Framestore in London, via
speakerphone and e-mail.
The score to The Tale of Despereaux
was composed by
, who recorded
his score with the Hollywood
at the Sony
Home video release
DVD & Blu-ray on April 7, 2009. The Blu-ray release also
includes a standard-definition DVD of the film in addition to the
The film received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes
reported that 55% of critics
gave positive reviews based on 87 reviews. Another review
, gave the film a
53/100 approval rating based on 23 reviews.
Many critics praised the film for its excellent animation and the
title character for being charming, but has an unoriginal and
scrambled story. Roger Ebert
stars and wrote in his review that "The Tale of Despereaux
is one of the most beautifully drawn animated films I've seen...",
but he also wrote "I am not quite so thrilled by the
The film opened #3 behind Seven
and Yes Man
with $10,507,000 in 3,104 theaters with an $3,385 average; by
Tuesday, the film was in 2nd. As of January 27, 2009, the film has
made US$70,897,254 worldwide.