The Movie of Despereaux

A quick review.

The first thing Violet said when the lights came up (after we watched to find out who everyone was in the voice cast) was: “That was nothing like the book!”

That didn’t bother her much, or Victoria.

Me and Eggmaster, I think we were far too distracted by the difference to really watch the movie.

Violet sympathized with the filmmakers, suggesting that the book was far too dark in places for young children, so that in order to make a movie that would appeal to more people, they had to make major changes. She seemed to suggest this in a positive way, as if the filmmakers were trying to bring their joy to as many people as possible, and not that they were trying to wring every last dollar out of the book.

And I sympathize, too. We listened to the book on tape recently, and it was wonderful. WONDERFUL. Worth hearing the story over again just to have someone read it to you. And it is not a book that is easily made into a movie, because like so many great books it is, in one way, at its heart about books and stories. So I can see where there were real challenges.

I did think the voice actors were good and well cast. Dustin Hoffman made a good Roscuro, even though the film’s Roscuro was not the book’s Roscuro.

The thing is, Roscuro, as you know if you’ve read the book, is short for Chiaroscuro, or dark and light. If you take away some of the dark, the light doesn’t seem to mean as much either.

Yes, a movie that represented the misery of Miggery Sow’s existence (“Would you like a good clout to the ear?”) would not necessarily be appealing to younger children — indeed, it works much better in a book — but then, the character of Miggery Sow doesn’t make as much sense if you don’t know why she’s deaf and why she falls for Roscuro’s trick when he’s the only person who seems to care what she wants.

Yes, Despereaux’s book family is cruel, but that’s much more powerful than the film family, which is merely obsessed with Despereaux’s performance in cowering class.

And then there were the weird additions: a rat arena where Princess Pea gets taken to be eaten, a cat in the rat arena, and this weird vegetable man who carries Despereaux down into the dungeons, instead of Despereaux’s return to the threadmaster.

So was it a good movie? It was very lovely to look at . And my kids really liked it, even as they thought the departures from the book were sometimes inexplicable (really, the vegetable man!). Me, I could never stop making comparisons. But I’m glad we took the girls anyway.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Movie of Despereaux

  1. Interesting review by Violet.

    I really had not planned to see it because I knew they couldn’t do the story justice. I loved the book.

  2. I’ve not read this book, but your review reminds me of our experiences with The Water Horse, written by the wonderful Dick King-Smith. It was SUCH a fabulous story, and we read it over 2 and a half days we loved it so much, and of course when the film came out we HAD to see it. Sigh. It was okay. They’d taken away so much and added so little I felt almost depressed, well, as depressed as one could be with the darkly handsome Ben Chaplin front and centre. But really, where ARE the people who think these changes are a good idea (and who hired them)? I think this is why I remain an admirer of Pixar: they know how to tell a good story without getting stupid about it (even if the fat people in Wall-E were a bit on the Horribly Didactic side).

    Thanks for the review. Funny how these things go, isn’t it?

  3. I posted Grace’s review of it in December, and she HATED it. She really couldn’t stand that hey had changed the story so much. She thought it was all “action, action , action” and that Despereaux was NOTHING like his literary persona! I’m afraid she’ll be just as disappointed with Inkspell as well… ( or is it InkHEART? I forget these things…)
    Forte

  4. restaurantstrip

    is there other books by kate Dicamillon brought into the big screen aside “the tale of despereaux”.. I really like this movie and wanting to have a copy of this book and other books that Kate publish.. Keep it up Kate, great job!!!

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