not too many spoilers under the cut but there are some minor ones.
The Tale of Despereaux. is the tale of a fearless mouse raised in a mouse society that values being fearful. The Tale of Despereaux is the tale of the rat named Chiaroscuro(or Roscuro)and his search for redemption. The Tale of Despereaux is the tale of the orphan serving girl Miggery Sow's desire to be a princess. Confused yet? Why is there so much soup involved?
First this is a computer animated movie. The animation style is really good and they switch styles to show storybook segments and that style is also good. The complaint I have computer animated films is not that the computer animation sucks, though some times it does. It is that I miss traditional animation. They are different art forms and I am kind of tired of the fact that one of those art forms seems to be dying slowly.
The story in this movie is very intricate for this sort of thing. There are essentially three main plots which interweave each other to a collective happy ending as things must. There are some really cool character moments to make most of the character in the story seem more than just cookie cutter models of what is expected in the standard kids film.
The film begins with Roscuro the rat arriving on a ship with his friend the sailer in the city of Door. The city has a soup festival, which they apparently value more than Christmas. Ruscuro is very interested in the soup this festival is for. They show the royal chef preparing the soup then locking himself in a room and summoning up what could only be described as a food golem to consult with on the missing touch to the soup. It is a nice scene which has little to do with the overall plot but it gives it more depth strangely.
When the soup is presented to the queen, Roscuro accidentally falls in the soup. The queen is so stunned that she up and dies. After this the king bans all soup and all rats from his kingdom. Roscuro escapes death by falling into drain leading to the dungeons where the Ratworld is.
Enter our namesake hero. He is born in Mouseworld, which is some deep and forgotten pantry. Despereaux is found remarkable for three things. He is small even by mouse standards, he has enormous ears, and he is not fearful. We are shown the mouse society teaches its children to be fearful and cower. These are the mouse high virtues. The lessons don't take and when he finds a book in the library describing a knight riding off to save a princess he becomes even more troublesome. When he meets the real princess, well there is no stopping him.
Enter our serving girl, Miggery Sow. She was raised on a pig farm as an orphan. The farmer sells her to a man when he sells the pigs to a man. He is careful to get the full price for a pig when selling the girl. She is a simple girl who all she ever wanted was to be was a princess in a castle. Now she works in the castle and slowly her dreams eat at her simple mind.
I wont go into how all these things resolve. Know that they do. The whole story bounces back and forth between the characters as they intersect and motivations lead the characters to actions which lead to consequences and so forth. As neatly as it all resolves itself all told the story makes sense. It is a fairy tale with the complexity of a novel which really impressed me. There are some bits which could be better. Some of the voice acting choices could have been better while others were spot on. The cook's summoned food Homunculi was cool but could have been cut without hurting the story overly much. It is probably too confusing for very young viewers as well. Hell I could think of some adults who might have problems. All of that said I have say this was really good. If you like a cool fairy tale movie with a swashbuckling mouse and a story which actually makes sense and is not just an excuse for a sight gag then you should see this movie. The overall style actually reminded me a bit of Stardust. I recommended it. I will probably buy it when it comes out and watch it again.