Based on The Tale of Despereaux, being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread, a book by Kate DiCamillo
Review by Katherine Gilks
Despereaux is no ordinary mouse. He is smaller than other mice, has gigantic ears, and shows no fear of anything – even humans! To the disappointment of his parents, he breaks the cardinal rules of being a mouse, and is banished to the dungeons. He is an unlikely hero in a tale involving rats, princesses, and daring escapes. The Tale of Despereaux is a story of courage, love, light, darkness, and forgiveness.
Making a movie out of a book is not easy. For one thing, if the movie includes everything that was in the book that it is based on, it would be a very long, boring movie. If the movie told the same story exactly as the book did, it would be hard to understand. Movies, like books, tell stories. However, movies tell their stories in a different way than books do.
Books mainly tell their stories through words. It takes a lot of words to describe one picture. Movies, on the other hand, mainly tell their stories through moving pictures. In Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, there are pictures here and there throughout the story, but it is mainly her words that tell us about the characters: who they are, what they look like, where they live, and what they are doing. We have to use our imaginations to make pictures out of those words. Our imaginations are limitless, so authors of books have a lot of freedom in what they write. They can also write stories that are fairly long and detailed.
Movie writers are lucky in that they do not have to use a lot of words to describe things. The pictures tell the story: they show us what Despereaux and the other characters look like, the castle in which they live, and what mishaps that they get themselves into. But sometimes, it is hard to show something in a picture, and so they use words to explain – they have the characters say things that are not in the book, they have a narrator tell us bits of the story so that we are not confused, and they change some of the details so that the story fits better into the movie. Movies usually cannot be as long as a book, but they still need to tell us the same story.
The movie version of The Tale of Despereaux tells the same story as the book version, but it changes some details to do so. The story is essentially the same, but unlike in the book, it is told in chronological order – several important things happen before Despereaux is even born! However, the movie brings out the world of Despereaux in a beautiful, colourful manner. The characters are interesting and not perfect, keeping the depth that they have in the book.
What this movie does not do is take a wonderful book and make it into a musical with singing animals. The mice are not fluffy and cute, the rats are scary, and the humans are smart. If you want to embark on an adventure and save the princess, The Tale of Despereaux is a great movie. It is a beautiful story.