This is one of those movies that dances the line between really dark and disturbing and heartwarming and sentimental. It does both reasonably well, but neither outstandingly. While it doesn't really do justice to the most memorable and poignant themes from Russell Hoban's wonderful book, it does manage to condense the more significant ones onto the screen, putting them in a framework that children might more easily relate to. Hoban's critical edge is somewhat dulled in the movie, and his more overt commentaries on social institutions like militia, the arts and the abstract sciences don't pack the same kind of punch in the film as they did in the book. Although I must admit that in some ways, the re-written ending is a little more believable than the original, even if it is more predictable.
The casting, at least, stands up well. The windup mice maintain a certain amount of innocence and apathy throughout their trials, which is essential to their characters, and helps the humor of the movie. Ustinov does a great job of making Manny Rat both despised and pathetic at the same time. The supporting cast is equally appropriate, and many of the voices are recognizable. The animation style is typical for the time, and doesn't seem to have been well-tailored to the story. There are a few points at which you could swear you were watching an episode of Schoolhouse Rock. Aside from the actual story changes, the visual style seems like the biggest departure from the original concept of the book. I would have preferred to see something a bit less fluid and cartoonish, with a little more emphasis on realism.
This is certainly not a movie for everyone. It's sweet, but by no means sugar-coated. It touches (lightly) on some pretty weighty issues that most people wouldn't expect to encounter in an animated children's movie - especially one that's roughly thirty years old. And while I do think that young children would appreciate this film, there are a few disturbing scenes. Nothing graphic, but it may be stuff that some children aren't used to. This is definitely not Disney.
That said, The Mouse & His Child is overall a good movie. Kids and adults can both get something out of it. If you don't go into it with too high expectations (especially if you've read the book), you're likely to be pleasantly surprised. I definitely recommend watching it if you can get your hands on a copy.
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