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"You know, for kids!"
Member Name: TJ-Mackey
Date: 01/07/02, updated on 01/07/02 (287 review reads)
Disadvantages: Badly marketed
From first impressions, you could easily be forgiven for dismissing 'Mouse Hunt' as a simple kids movie. Certainly from the trailers, it looks very much like 'Home Alone' with a mouse - slapstick comedy all the way. But then again, movies do sometimes surprise us, exceed our expectations, and turn out to be so much better than anticipated. This is one of those movies.
Out-of-luck brothers Ernie and Lars (Nathan Lane and Lee Evans) inherit a dilapidated old house and the family string factory when their father passes away. After discovering the house may actually be worth a fortune, they embark on a refurbishment before going to auction. The only thing standing in their way is an inventive little mouse who doesn't want anyone disturbing his home, let alone these two bumbling idiots. And so, the game is afoot.
Where this film differs from the comparisons with 'Home Alone' is that this is most definitely a black comedy. Firstly, and perhaps most interestingly, there are no real heroes and villains to the story -unlike the two burglars in John Hughes' comedy, the brothers do evoke sympathy from the audience, but then again, so does the mouse. At times, we're actually rooting for both parties, and this is undoubtedly thanks to the lead actors. Ernie is the more intelligent of the two characters, and Lane plays off well against the wackier Evans. Their obsession with catching the mouse is drawn out a little too far, but as it's essentially the only plot to the film, it's only to be expected. The mouse itself is a brilliant creation, brought to the screen using a combination of real mice, computer effects and animatronics. The rest of the acting parts are reasonably small, but do look out for Christopher Walken, who's brought in as an expert exterminator and almost steals the show.
Apart from the acting though, the style of the film is also quite different to your usual family entertainment. A lot o
f it is filmed in a fairly bleak manner, with the interiors of the house given a dark atmosphere similar in approach to Gilliam or even Burton. Then, there's the quirkiness that could be compared to the Coen brothers' work, in particular 'Raising Arizona' and 'The Hudsucker Proxy'. The biggest influence, though, is surely from the classic comedies of Laurel and Hardy - many of the set pieces and plenty of the visual humour wouldn't look out of place in one of their movies. In fact, I'm sure the scene in which Lane waits on a park bench opposite two young women is a direct homage to a scene with Oliver Hardy. I just can't remember the film!
Believe it or not, there are even serious messages hidden behind the visual gags and 'kids movie' fašade. When greed and selfishness are the motivation for the protagonists, they are doomed to failure at the hands (paws?) of the mouse, but following their father's advice and continuing the family business may bring greater rewards than they think. There's a nice quote in the very last scene which underlines this further, with the metaphor of the piece of string nicely brought to a conclusion.
However, there are problems with 'Mouse Hunt'. Not all of the jokes work, and there's only so much humour to be had in slapstick before it begins to grate. There's also a rather cheesy ending. Of course, children will enjoy this side of the film more than the adults, but do note the PG certificate - some aspects might not be entirely suitable for the very young. There are some sexual references, and quite a lot of violence (albeit comic book in style), but nothing major.
I guess this is one of the hardest types of films to make - aiming at both adults and children - and while 'Mouse Hunt' certainly isn't perfect, it definitely makes a worthy attempt.