MOUSE HUNT, the first kids' movie from the new DreamWorks studio,
should come with a warning. Its PG rating may give a false sense of
security to parents, but they may find their kids wanting to leave
early as several around us did. Later in the review I'll cover some of
the picture's questionable aspects.
The dark movie opens with a funeral. The father, Rudolph Smuntz,
played just before his death by William Hickey, has died. His grown
sons, Ernie and Lars, played without much energy by Nathan Lane and Lee
Evans, are carrying their father's casket. When the brothers drop the
casket, the corpse comes flying out, which immediately began to scare
some of the kids around us.
The father, whose motto is "a world without string is chaos," owns
a bankrupt string factory. He bequeaths it and a heavily mortgaged,
broken down house to his two sons. The house is correctly described as
"cold and spooky," and Phedon Papamichael's creepy, dark cinematography
adds to the fright. ("Can we go now?" asked the kid behind me, clearly
upset.) Alan Silvestri's whimsical music tries to set a happier mood
to the picture.
With a DOA performance by the two leads, the mouse shows up and
almost saves the picture. His antics are delightful, and he is the
only one present with any intelligence. When the brothers slice off a
piece of cheese to put it on a mouse trap, the mouse rolls the entire
cheese wheel away instead. And when they hire a scary cat named
Catzilla, whose claim to fame is that he survived being gassed at the
pound, even he cannot outsmart the mouse.
The broke brothers find out that, since their father's house was
designed by a famous architect, it can be sold for over ten million
dollars. In an illogical fit of anger they slowly demolish their only
valuable possession in a vain quest to kill the pesky mouse. The only
smart thing they do is hire Caesar the Exterminator -- smart because
Christopher Walken's militarily precise performance is the only decent
one by a human being in the movie. Looking like Robert De Niro in his
role of Harry Tuttle in BRAZIL, Walken goes after the little critter
with gadgets and pseudo-sophisticated strategy. Got to think like a
mouse to capture one, he explains.
The most imaginative sequence in the film has the mouse running
behind the walls, chased by a series of nails being hammered into the
wall. As he is trapped between two nails with another about to shoot
through his eyes, he is saved at the last second. Needless to say, the
kids are apt to be to scared by this scene as it looks like the mouse
is about to die a horrible death.
First-time movie director Gore Verbinski, whose background is
television commercials, manages to maintain interest in the show's
black comedy for about thirty minutes, but after that repetition sets
in. The mouse's acrobatics always delight, but banged heads have a
As promised, I'll cover some of the inappropriate parts of the
movie. First, the tone is extremely dark. After opening with the
burial of one person, they kill off another with a realistic scene in
which an obese man eats a cockroach, throws it up and then dies of a
massive heart attack. My son refused to drink water after the movie
until he inspected it for bugs. In a particularly gross scene, the
exterminator eats mouse feces as an investigative technique.
In the sexually questionable category are a series of fondlings
that occur at the end. When the mouse runs down a woman's dress, one
brother reaches his arm way down inside her dress with the appearance
of fondling her. This causes her friend to grab the other brother's
hand and put it down her dress so she can be fondled too. And there is
a similar scene when the mouse runs down a man's pants, and his brother
puts his arm in after it. These scenes have no place in a PG movie
with a theater filled with young kids. (I checked and was not able to
find any other reviewers who have mentioned the movie's questionable
parts. How can they be so oblivious to the sensibilities of the
movie's target audience? Don't any of the reviewers have kids?)
The movie ends in one of its few upbeat moments. The ending
possesses the intelligent and good spirited humor that the rest of the
movie so often lacks.
MOUSE HUNT runs 1:30. It is incorrectly rated PG and should be
considered questionable for kids under 10.
My son Jeffrey, age 8, spent most of the movie so scared that he
was shaking, but said he wanted to stay. In the end he claimed he
thought the movie was "great and funny." He went on to say that he
wanted to advise parents that "if you don't like bugs or mice or bloody
scenes or if your child gets scared easily, don't see it." His friend
Matthew, age 9, said the movie was "a rich and cheesy deal, but it was
good." Both of them said they liked HOME ALONE 3 much better because
it had more action, was funnier and wasn't so gross.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes