The Tale of Despereaux Film (Not a Review, Exactly)


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.



Filed under Movies

9 responses to “The Tale of Despereaux Film (Not a Review, Exactly)

  1. Have you seen the graphic novel that’s been published to accompany the movie? It’s so strange that a book that has such a deliberately literary voice is now in graphic format!


  2. Yes, I was puzzled when I first saw the graphic novel, but I’m now guessing they tell the film story which is not exactly the book’s. I wonder what kids who read the book after seeing the movie will think. It is so much more complex and way darker (and wittier).


  3. Nina

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but did read the graphic novel and the junior novelization, which I find extremeley disturbing. I wrote a review for BayNews, which was just posted this weekend here:


  4. Richard Flynn

    Joseph Thomas and I were in a Barnes and Noble last month and there was a prominent cardboard display featuring an array of different movie tie-in books including the “junior novelization” of the movie. Not only were these prominently displayed, but there was not one copy of DiCamillo’s novel on the rack. All of these tie-in products were published by Candlewick–a press I respect, but won’t for much longer if this sort of marketing practice is a harbinger of things to come.

    This is what we saw:
    The Tale of Despereaux: The Mouse and the Princess
    The Tale of Despereaux: The Graphic Novel
    The Tale of Despereaux: No Ordinary Mouse
    The Tale of Despereaux: A Hero’s Quest
    The Tale of Despereaux: The Deluxe Movie Storybook
    The Tale of Despereaux: The Glow-in-the-Dark Sticker Book
    The Tale of Despereaux: The Coloring and Activity Book

    Joseph asked a store clerk where the book was–and we were directed to a separate, smaller cardboard display with paperback copies of the novel tucked away in a corner. The store clerk informed us that the jobber required that the novel not be situated anywhere near the novelizations, sticker books, etc.

    I, too, love this novel and am happy to hear the movie isn’t entirely dreadful–but this nonsense from Candlewick is truly despicable–or at least it smacks of utter greediness..


  5. I should say I saw the graphic novel, but haven’t read it. Nor have I see these novelizations. However, they remind me of the ones that were done for the Charlotte’s Web movie by HarperCollins.. See my post on those:


  6. What a great film. Killer animation and design. How could you not love this movie? I couldn’t find bad thing to say about it.

    I Hyped Tale of Despereaux on Everhype and gave it 96% which I think is fairly accurate.

    I wouldn’t mind getting some opinions on it . If you get on there, rate me a 5 & request friendship.


  7. Pam Koehler

    I haven’t seen the movie, but my son and his family went over the weekend. I very briefly spoke to my 12 yr. old granddaughter at church. She said she loved the movie, but didn’t think it was a good depiction of the book. She reads constantly so I value her opinion. She is now reading The Hunger Games. I got it at the Indiana Library Federation Conference where Suzanne Collins was receiving the Young Hoosier Award for Gregor the Overlander. When Suzanne signed the book for me she wanted to make sure how old my granddaughter was to be sure it was appropriate. I liked that! I have just started the book myself.


  8. I’m working on reading The Tale of Desperaux right now… I just finished book 3 and will probably read book 4 tonight. I know the movies usually disappoint me… for some reason, they never seem nearly as good as the book!


  9. Pingback: Fusenews: Bite They Little Heads Off. Nibble on They Tiny Feet. « A Fuse #8 Production

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