Tuesday, April 19, 2011

FI: The Great Mouse Detective

The Great Mouse Detective
United States, 1986
Directed by Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, and John Musker

Falling, as it does, just before the great late 80's–early 90's Disney revival, The Great Mouse Detective is plagued by some familiar problems. The animation is inconsistent, though generally good, the pacing is uneven, and the tone struggles to find a balance between kids' stuff and grown-up Sherlock Holmes pastiche. But even taking all of that into consideration, Mouse is an enjoyable if not wholly memorable watch.

I've never read Basil of Baker Street, the book on which Mouse is based, so I can't comment on the relationship between the film and the book. The film tells the story of Basil, a Holmes-analogue, and his new chum Dr. Dawson, who team up to thwart the fiendish plans of criminal mastermind Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price). There are plenty of chuckle-worthy Holmes references—most of which would go over a child's head—and a surprising amount of adult content (alcohol, scantily-clad music hall acts) and moments that would probably scare a child. Still, much of the film's humor skews childish, and there's an unfortunate lack of flair in most of the writing and visual gags.

There are only a few songs, and Price's song as Ratigan steals the show, though the movie devotes too much screen time to his annoying bat henchman Fidget. The film's appropriately foggy, Victorian visual style and the legendary Henry Mancini's music set the mood, and there are plenty of nods to Disney's dark side; if only the balance were nudged nearer to these darker, more adult themes, this might be a better movie overall.

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