Cover Art and Menus: 6/10
The Tale of Despereaux has a nice little cover with the big-eared mouse holding his needle/sword up in the air. The cover also has various characters from the movie in the background, and it does a decent job of displaying the beautiful computer generated animation from the movie. Again, this is a children’s movie, and the covers are usually pretty straightforward.
- 2 Deleted Songs – Two songs that did not make it into the final movie are included: “Its Great to be a Rat” and “Soup.” I didn’t really love many of the songs from the movie, so another two are not totally missed. The songs are shown through a storyboard, which is kind of neat.
- Make Your Own Soup Game – You choose between ingredients to make a soup that the king will like. A very strange little game, and my 3 year-old was not particularly taken with it.
- Animating The Animals Featurette – This includes 6 different scenes and it demonstrates the progression from storyboard to feature film. Very detailed, it really shows the work that is done to get to the final product. This extra runs over 35 minutes total.
- U-Control Picture In Picture – This was my first experience with U-control, and it was a bit strange. It is going to take me a while to get used to this to be honest. I have to agree with Ascully and Cidtalk, that I would like a separate menu where I can watch all of the extras in full screen, instead of a picture-in-picture. I have a 42 inch screen and it ends up being too small for the extras. On Ascully’s monster screen, it works out just fine, but I would at least like the option to see these extras in large mode. The extras themselves were pretty decent and went about describing the making of the movie itself.
- Sneak Peek At Curious George 2 – I will reiterate my opinion that included advertising is NOT an extra, but we got a sneak peak at the new Curious George movie. It looks like it will be fun, even without Will Farrell’s involvement.
- The Making Of The Movie – This is a short (about 11 minute) making of feature that goes into detail about how the movie was made. It kind of demonstrates the ideas behind the movie, and shows a bit of the storyboards for the film. Also included are interviews about the process and the movie.
- Top Ten Uses For Oversized Ears – In a strange twist for an extra, this short piece talks about the absurd uses for over-sized ears, as our hero Desperaux most certainly has. A bit gimmicky and strange, but somewhat fun for the little ones.
The Movie: 7/10
The Tale of Despereaux is a strange little film. It begins with a rat named Roscuro (Dustin Hoffman) who arrives in the kingdom of Dor just in time to experience Soup Day, where all of the people gather around to celebrate the royal chef’s latest creation for the King’s family, which is always a gourmet soup of some sort. The entire kingdom stops to experience the excitement, and Roscuro just can’t help himself, as he moves in just a bit too close to get a whiff of the soup, and he ends up falling into the Queen’s bowl. She of course reacts, and ends up dying. The King overreacts, and outlaws both soup and rats from the kingdom. A very strange beginning indeed.
We are then introduced to our hero, Despereaux, a mouse who lived in Dor, and has incredibly large ears. Despereaux is not like the other mice, as he doesn’t cower and he is not afraid of anything. The rest of the mice think Despereaux is a bit odd, as he doesn’t really act like he is supposed to act. His parents decide that he needs to spend time with his older brother (who is afraid of everything) in the hopes that Despereuax will learn to act like a real mouse. He ventures off with his brother to the library, where he runs across amazing stories about chivalry and knights and such. He randomly runs into the King’s daughter, Princess Pea (Emma Watson), who he promises to tell his entire completed adventure to when he finished it. Princess Pea longs for stories of real adventure, seeing as how the kingdom has turned into a bit of a boring mess.
When the mice learn that Despereaux has spoken to a human, he is banished to the underworld where the rats have taken up residence. He should be afraid, but he is not, and his true adventure starts as he quests to prove that he is capable of doing some amazing things. He ends up being forced to live like a rat, even though he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group.
The movie itself looked great, and the story was well done, but it just seemed to drag on in spots, and the humor was too sporadic for me to love this movie. It was well done, and in my house we will definitely watch it again, but it was not something that will stay in the Blu-ray player for long. My 3 year-old enjoyed it, but was not blown away.
Audio & Video: 9/10
The Tale of Despereaux looked amazing. This is my first movie review of a Blu-ray disc (I know – welcome to the new age.) I was a HDDVD fan, and now I have joined the masses and jumped into Blu-ray. Having said that, this was my first taste of a high definition animated movie, and it was insane. The detail and colors are brilliant, and I truly think that Blu-ray is the place to see animated movies. It was mind blowing. The picture was presented in 2.35:1 widescreen.
The audio was also amazing, with excellent balance and clarity, and nice use of the rear speakers when needed. Presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Surround Sound, it was amazingly clear. (I think I am going to like this whole Blu-ray thing). Again, I am coming at this a bit blind, as this is my first Blu-ray review, but i was impressed overall with both the video (duh) and the audio.
I liked the Tale of Despereaux, but I am not totally sold that everyone will love this movie. it is a decent animated film that looks great, but is a bit short on both the story and laughs. With all of the excellent animated features that have come out lately, this one just seems to come up a bit short. I thought it was good, and my son liked it, but he didn’t love it. There were parts that seemed to drag, and for kids, that is just not good. Overall decent, but not great.
Overall Score 7/10