I saw the movie today. And I’m okay. Not besotted and in a rush to see it again, but not miserable either. It is okay. Perhaps even a bit more than okay. And for those who don’t care about or even know the book, it is probably way more than okay.
I first read Kate DiCamillo‘s The Tale of Despereaux. as an ARC in the summer of 2002, fell in love with it, read it aloud to my students who also loved it. We were beyond thrilled when it won the Newbery (and the first image is of the little Despereaux mouse puppet of ours, with his Newbery medal, doing his favorite activity, reading.) Since then I’ve read it aloud many times. In 2005 I spoke about the book in a talk on literary fairy tales at CLNE (you can read it here). So needless to say I was rather apprehensive about the big Hollywood movie it was turned into.
At the screening today I decided to simply watch it to see if it was a good movie, not if it did a good job with my beloved book. And I’m happy to say it was a good movie, perhaps not a great one, but a very decent one indeed. It is attractive to look at, interesting, and I think children will enjoy it. I will leave it to the movie reviewers to tell you more.
Did they do a good job with my beloved book? Well, more or less. That is, given that it is a big Hollywood film, it was much more along the lines of the book than I expected. Miggery Sow, whom I thought would surely have been eliminated, is there, toned-down though. Roscoro is toned-down too, that is, not nearly as nasty and complex a piece of work he is in the book. In fact, toned-down is probably good phrase for what has been done with the book. The extreme darkness has been massively toned down. The humor seems tamped down too. I mean, this is a book where you laugh and you cry. As for the movie, I’m not sure it elicits either. (One of the best images in the movie is of the sad king strumming his guitar and one that I missed most of all was Despereaux’s mother wailing that he was, “such the disappointment!” )
Not a review, I’m afraid, but I do encourage you to see the movie. And, again, I’ll be interested to see what others have to say.