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The Duchy of Grand Fenwick decides that the only way to get out of their economic woes is to declare war on the United States, lose and accept foreign aid. They send an invasion force to New York (armed with longbows) which arrives during a nuclear drill that has cleared the streets. Wandering about to find someone to surrender to, they discover a scientist with a special ultimate weapon that can destroy the Earth. When they capture him and his bomb they are faced with a new possibility: What do you do when you win a war? Written by
John Vogel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
During the Institute for Physics scene, Professor Kokintz addresses Tully as both "Grand Marshall" and "Mr. Constable", but nowhere in the preceding dialogue is Tully introduced as such. Prof. Kokintz couldn't have known his two titles. See more »
not as funny as it thinks it is, even if it has its clever moments and silliness
There's a danger with being too self-consciously silly, where on the other side of Monty Python a movie or TV show is almost too light and not sharp enough to connect well enough. Sometimes The Mouse That Roared relies on really dry humor to pull across its gags and one-liners, but curiously it's almost sort of dull and/or flat at times with what it tries to achieve. It has a premise loaded, and promising with wit, and apparently it's based on a (much better) book with more details in the Grand Fenwick's chronicles of war against the USA. The Grand Fenwick are the smallest country on Earth, and in order to save themselves from bankruptcy they decide that by declaring was on the US, and surrender, they'll be given lots of money in replenishing their funds (as seems to be the case whenever a country loses to the US after a war. But when the 20-man army of Fenwick steals a precious bomb, and its bomb-maker and daughter, along with some army and police, they have "won", and may have a larger crisis on their hands.
Promising, to be sure, and having Peter Sellers in multiple rolls sounds extra promising as well. Oddly though, Jack Arnold's direction and the screenwriters only give Sellers material enough for some sporadic laughs- often his stuff isn't irreverent in the right measure or given the right step in improvisation to make the characters really memorable (even when playing the grand duchess of Fenwick). And it's not that the filmmakers don't try for some clever bits amid the silly maps, the silly reactions (Martians?), the satirical jabs at the nuclear age and paranoia over who has the bomb. Actually, my favorite scene in the film- almost redeeming it from being a lesser movie- is when randomly we see an atomic explosion, and the narrator says "something like this might easily happen, and we thought we should put you in the proper mood. And now, back to our story." Or when it looks like Fenwick has "won" and is getting support, not necessarily from Red China, just the other one. And there happens to be a strange little fox in the woods that goes wacky at the right moment.
But much of the rest of the picture remains as a curious filler at points, like Sellers's nebbish, neurotic character Tully, who falls for Jean Seberg's character in a strange romantic courtship. The scenes like these are charming, up to a point, but it never garners any real laughs, at least from me. It's not even that the humor is too stupid for its own good, it's got too much of an original concept for that. It's just that the execution doesn't leave an incredible mark like other Sellers-lead movies ala Dr. Strangelove or Pink Panther. It's not even a lack of "getting" the British humor in it, because I got pretty much all of it- The Mouse That Roared has its moments of true likability and a touch or two of Sellers brilliance, but is also too slight for comfort- it almost didn't totally feel complete, being that it's an 80 minute adaptation.
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