The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

24 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Well it figures that, in a Disney animated feature, when a father and daughter are having a good time, and the little daughter calls her father the “best daddy in the whole world,” it only makes it necessary for the father to suddenly be taken out of the picture. This way, she can embark on the movie’s adventure. But here’s a surprise (for a Disney animated movie)—the father isn’t dead. He’s just been kidnapped, that’s all.

The main gimmick of Disney’s “The Great Mouse Detective,” a very well-put-together family-adventure, is that the main characters are all mice and rats living in Victorian London. It’s like a parallel world underneath our own, which makes sense considering the title character (indeed a “great mouse detective”) lives under the dwelling of Sherlock Holmes. The film draws heavily on traditional Sherlock Holmes elements—of course, for example, the main character, named Basil, is a heroic mouse who has the intelligence and personality of the famous fictional detective.

The aforementioned little girl (or mouse, whatever) witnesses her father being captured by a nasty, peg-legged bat. So with the aid of friendly Dr. Dawson, she tracks down the rodent-equivalent of Sherlock Holmes himself, Basil of Baker Street. She hopes that Basil will be able to help get her father back. While following a series of clues, Basil, Dawson, and the girl (aided by a loyal dog named Toby) set out to rescue the kidnapped parent and stop an evil scheme devised by a villainous sewer rat named Ratigan, whose plan requires the help of the father.

By the way, the father is a toymaker and Ratigan plans to use his inventiveness to create a robotic clone of the mouse Queen, so that it can trick the attendees of a royal event into thinking that Ratigan is now ruler of the land…I am aware of how dumb that sounds, but I’ll let it slide because it’s Disney-magic. The mice talk, yet Toby the dog and Ratigan’s pet cat don’t. Let them do whatever they want.

“The Great Mouse Detective” is quite the entertaining Disney film. It takes us on a wild adventure through this intriguing mouse-world and has sequence upon sequence of pure delight and mystery. It will delight kids, and also keep their parents entertained as well.

While it does feature a little mouse-world mixing with the giant human world, what “The Great Mouse Detective” is really centered around are the characters that go through it and have this adventure. The hero and villain are very enjoyable. Basil (voiced by Barrie Ingham) is a great hero to follow—he’s quick-thinking; he’s intelligent; he’s observant; he’s energetic; and he’s narcissistic yet still very likeable. You can tell that from the first moment he arrives on screen that you’re going to enjoy watching this guy (or mouse) on this film’s journey. And the villain is great. Ratigan is voiced by Vincent Price, whose sliminess is very existent in his voiceover work for this character. Ratigan is brilliant, dastardly evil, and enjoys every second of what he does. He’s enjoying what he does so much that even we as a result can’t help but enjoy it as well. The hero and villain of “The Great Mouse Detective” are very appealing, and they play off each other perfectly as two intelligent minds trying to outwit each other.

Dawson, who becomes Basil’s loyal sidekick, is also very likeable. With nervous mannerisms, a distinguished quality to himself, and a loyalty that leads to bravery as the journey continues, Dawson is an effective equivalent of Holmes’ partner Dr. Watson.

But being a Disney animated feature, the animation deserves credit, especially since this is apparently the first time Disney used computer-generated animation. What really stands out among this animation is the climax, in which Basil and Ratigan have a showdown in the clock tower. The way this sequence is animated is just so fascinating, and the way it’s put together makes for a quite intense fight scene.

“The Great Mouse Detective” constantly gets overlooked when it comes to mentioning Disney animated films, but it really is a small treasure. It may be the mouse version of the Sherlock Holmes story, but don’t let that throw you off. It’s an entertaining movie with terrific animation, interesting characters, and a good sense of fun.

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