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Mouse Hunt

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Mouse Hunt

Starring: Nathan Lane, Lee Evans
Director: Gore Verbinski
Rated: PG
RunTime: 97 Minutes
Release Date: December 1997
Genres: Comedy, Family, Kids

*Also starring: Vicki Lewis, Eric Christmas, Michael Jeter, Debra Christofferson, Camilla Soeberg, William Hickey, Christopher Walken

Reviewer Roundup
1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  MrBrown read the review movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
3.  Walter Frith read the review movie reviewmovie review
4.  David Wilcock read the review movie reviewvideo review

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

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 limited appeal.

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

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