Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

“There’s always a chance, as long as one can still think.”
-Basil of Baker Street

Title: The Great Mouse Detective
Genre: Disney (Yes, Disney is its own genre)
Year: 1986
Rated: G

Barrie Ingham as Basil of Baker Street
Val Bettin as Dr. David Q. Dawson
Vincent Price as Professor Ratigan
Susanne Pollatscheck as Olivia Flaversham

Basil, the most famous rodent detective, investigates the disappearance of a toy maker and its link to his archenemy, Professor Ratigan.
London’s crime fighting ace on his most baffling case!
First Viewing:
3rd grade (1996) at “Hook Grandma’s” house. Added to The List: Always been there.

Yes, I know it has been forever since I have written a review, so I apologize if you are one of my devoted readers, dying to know what I think about the next movie on my list,
The Great Mouse Detective. Rest easy, dear reader, for your prayers have been answered.

First and foremost, I love Disney. I just feel like it needs to be said. You can never say you love Disney enough. Specifically, I love the 47 (and counting!) Disney animated features. I own all of them on good ole’ VHS. (With the exception of
Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons, which were released after VHS went kaput.) I have had week long marathons and ranked them arduously. You know how much I love to rank. In fact, someday in the distant future, I may re-rank and dissect the DAF’s. This may be a shocking statement, but only 5 of the 46 Disney animated features make my list.

The Great Mouse Detective is #5.

It’s kind of shocking, really. Even I am surprised at myself. Shouldn’t
Aladdin or The Lion King outrank Disney’s 1986’s moderately successful animated feature? Or what about classic fairy tales Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty? Nope. The Great Mouse Detective.

TGMD was not one of the brightly packaged Disney movies I owned during childhood. My Hook Grandma had it amongst her random pile of grandkid friendly films. It was a standard whenever I stayed the night at her house. As I look back now, I can hardly believe that I liked it all. I liked princesses. And dancing in the forest/ballroom. And huge Broadway caliber musical numbers. TGMD lacks all of these.

So what exactly do I like about it? In one word, you demand? Characters.

Basil of Baker Street is based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s immortal British detective, Sherlock Holmes. Originally, he appeared in a series of juvenile fiction novels by Eve Titus. I have read none of them and have discovered, thanks to the good people at Wikipedia, that the plot of the film is entirely unrelated to any of the books.

The story begins when a toymaker, Hiram Flaversham, is kidnapped by a peg legged bat. His daughter, Olivia, witnesses the ordeal and seeks help from Dr. David Q. Dawson (Watson’s awestruck, bumbling counterpart). The twosome then inquires about Basil, who is hot on the case of his nemesis, Professor Ratigan. Basil is reluctant to help the adorable Olivia until he learns that Ratigan’s peg legged bat was involved. He is certain that the cases are intertwined and sets out to discover the answers.
I’m not really a mystery fan. The trouble with the mystery genre is that once you know the answer, the story becomes dull. And as truly entertaining as TGMD is, the mystery isn’t that complex and becomes more and more obvious with each repeat viewing. But, like I said before, it’s not the story, it’s the characters.

Basil is arrogant, but he has the goods to back it up. How can you not like (or at least respect) someone who can figure out the location of a seedy pub from a simple piece of paper? Dawson is so bumbling and loyal and genuinely good hearted, but isn’t exactly the most helpful sidekick in the Disney canon. Still, I can’t imagine the movie without him. And then there’s little Olivia, the token child character of the film. She’s sweet, endearing and precocious, so it’s difficult to not like her (even though Basil tries his damndest). Plus she has a Scottish accent. Irresistible.
Then there’s the villains…Ratigan (voiced by Vincent Price) is a typical goatee stroking menace, intent on ruling the British rodent Empire. Fidget, his peg legged, dimwitted sidekick. And Felicia, Ratigan’s giant feline pet who eats his victims whenever he is displeased. The most interesting thing about Ratigan, is his desire to be a mouse. This arises many questions. Where is the rat population in London? Why is it so desirous to be a mouse? Are the mice like white people and the rats like black people in the 19th century? Is Ratigan half rat, half mouse? What is Ratigan’s back story? And another thing...aren't rats bigger than mice? Couldn't they take over without political schemes?
Hopefully, these are questions I will never know the answers to. Not unless Disney starts commissioning direct-to-video sequels again. [Shudder].
Like I said before, TGMD isn’t known for its songs. There are three to be exact. And my favorite is “Let Me Be Good to You” sung by Melissa Manchester. It is an entirely superfluous song that is played while Basil and Dawson are undercover at the seamy pub. While trying to find clues, a sexy mousette in a blue showgirl costume dances suggestively on stage and sings PG rated lyrics. It’s probably the most risqué scene in any Disney movie. And it’s still rated G.
The last thing I have to cover in my review is TGMD’s use of computer generated imagery. It was the first of the DAF’s to utilize this technology in a big way. (The Black Cauldron was the first to use it at all. Check out Eilonwy’s bauble. Oooh!)
But, more impressively, the gears in the final Big Ben battle were created with computer animation, allowing the characters to interact in a more complex background. And it still looks good today.
The Great Mouse Detective is my fifth favorite Disney movie for reasons that are quite enigmatic. The story is so-so, as is the music. But I love the characters. I suppose that’s all it takes sometimes.

Favorite Screencap
Smile everyone!

Next Film: Never Been Kissed


Anonymous said...

I remember watching this movie over at a friend's house and it still is one of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love Basil, hottest mouse ever animated.