With its three inaugural releases, megabucks studio DreamWorks SKG has
just about covered all the bases: middle-of-the-road action (THE
PEACEMAKER); highminded "Oscar bait" (AMISTAD), and now lowbrow comedy with
MOUSE HUNT, a slapstick comedy that will please the tykes but will leave
the rest of the family less than satisfied.
The basic plot setup (a pair of down-on-their-luck brothers inherit a
rundown--and, as it turns out, valuable--house from their string
manufacturer father) is rendered irrelevant once the "star" of the movie
enters the picture: a tiny little mouse (a charmer by the name of "Jenny
the Mouse"), who immediately ruins the house renovation plans of the two
siblings, Ernie (Nathan Lane) and Lars (Lee Evans) Smuntz. What ensues is
one long, frenzied pursuit in which the two bumbling brothers make attempt
after attempt to find and kill the mouse, who outsmarts them every time.
MOUSE HUNT is little more than HOME ALONE with a mouse in the lead, which
should give you a clear idea about the bulk of the comedy in this film:
broad physical schtick. Granted, this type of humor goes a long way with
the film's target audience--children--and a handful of the gags did make me
smile, but after a while I (and, I suspect, most adults in the audience)
grew tired of the pratfalls. After all, a man getting hit in the head by a
blunt object can only be so "hilarious" after the first two or three times
it is done.
What keeps the incessant slapstick from becoming completely monotonous are
the engaging performances. Even though they are set up as the villains of
the piece, Lane and Evans, who develop a nice brotherly rapport, remain
likable and sympathetic; at certain points I found myself simultaneously
rooting for them _and_ the mouse. And it is through the acting that the
film is able to maintain a slightly twisted edge. Lane delivers his acid
one-liners with malicious glee, and an effectively creepy Christopher
Walken comes close to walking away with the movie as overzealous and
slightly psycho exterminator Caesar.
MOUSE HUNT, like its destructive but well-meaning protagonist, is
harmless, a fairly safe bet to keep the little ones entertained for 97
minutes. But anyone looking for a film that truly is fun for the whole
family is better off checking out the opulent ANASTASIA or, better yet,
Disney's modern classic THE LITTLE MERMAID, which is enjoying yet another
rerelease this week.