Story

Despereaux (voice of Matthew Broderick), a small mouse with a big heart, is the unlikely hero of this animated fairy tale set in the storybook land of Dor. The land turns dark after the Queen of Dor dies suddenly in the middle of the happiest event of the year, the ‘Soup Festival’. The king’s heartbreak strips the land of happiness and turns Dor into a world of grief and sadness, where darkness prevails. Princess Pea (Emma Watson), heartbroken for the mother she has lost and the father who is unavailable, begins to feel trapped by the sadness. She longs desperately for the light to return to the Kingdom of Dor.

Rescue arrives in the unlikely form of a small mouse with extra large ears. When Despereaux is born, the other mice quickly notice that he is different. They work endlessly to change him into the cowering and scurrying creature that all good mice should be. Despereaux refuses to believe that he is too small to be brave, and he sets about teaching all those around him that anyone can be a giant.

On one of Despereaux’s brave adventures out of ‘Mouseworld’, he finds Princess Pea crying alone in her room. He plucks up the courage to talk to her. What follows are the grand adventures of a small mouse and his many friends (Dustin Hoffman, Tracey Ullman) on their quest to save the sad princess and bring the ‘light’ back to the Kingdom.

Themes

Loss and grief

Violence

There is some violence in this movie. For example:

  • There is a fight between the chef and the vegetable man, which includes yelling, and food and bottle throwing.
  • Despereaux is chased by a rat, which tries to kill him.
  • Despereaux is banished from his family and community after he wanders too far from ‘Mouseworld’. He is sent down into the dungeon with the rats, from where ‘no light or mouse has ever returned’, and where it is assumed he will be killed.
  • Princess Pea attempts to kill Roscuro with a candlestick holder.
  • The princess is tied up by the rats so that she can be eaten by them.
  • Despereaux is sent by the rats to the rat arena, where he is chased by a very large cat and almost eaten.
  • There is book imagery that depicts fighting using swords and battle armour.
  • The vegetable man is eaten by the rats when he attempts to save the princess.
  • The leader of ‘Ratworld’ is eaten by the very large cat (not seen but implied).

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of eight. For example:

  • There are dark and sad scenes involving the sudden death of the queen from a heart attack and the consequent grief of the king and princess.
  • Miggery Sow is orphaned as a baby by her father who is too poor to raise her.

Over 8

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drug and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

Ideas to discuss with your children

Based on the children’s book by Kate DiCamillo, The Tale Of  Despereaux is a charming story that captures the innocence of fairytales. Both children and adults are likely to enjoy the magical characters and beautiful animation.

The main message from this movie is to believe in yourself.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include forgiveness, courage and perseverance.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the consequences of:

  • grief and loss
  • anger, hurt and revenge.