Monday, July 15, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Great Mouse Detective (1986) **

G, 74 min.
Directors: Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, John Musker
Writers: Pete Young, Vance Gerry, Steve Hulett, Ron Clements, John Musker, Bruce M. Morris, Matthew O’Callaghan, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, Melvin Shaw, Eve Titus (book “Basil of Baker Street”), Paul Galdone (book “Basil of Baker Street”)
Voices: Barrie Ingham, Val Bettin, Vincent Price, Susanne Pollatschek, Candy Candido, Diana Chesney, Eve Brenner, Alan Young

Watching the BBC’s “Sherlock” has put me on an all out Sherlock Holmes kick. I might even have to crack open a couple of Arthur Conan Doyle volumes. So, with Sherlock on the brain, it seemed natural that this week’s family movie night should fall right into cadence and we watched Disney’s 1986 animated feature “The Great Mouse Detective”. While not technically a Sherlock Homes adventure, since it follows his mouse equivalent Basil of Baker Street from the children’s book of that name. Sherlock and Watson do make cameo appearances in shadow form with actual dialogue from the Basil Rathbone Holmes films from the 30’s that inspire the name of this version’s hero.

I was surprised to find how little social graces even the Disney’s animal version of Sherlock has. His relationship with Dr. Dawson, the fat mouse who is obviously meant to be Dr. Watson, is very much the same as in the Sherlock Holmes novels as well. It’s all a little more Disney bubbly, though. The bat that is the villain’s sidekick is a cutout version of a Disney villain’s sidekick—funny voice and totally incompetent. Nabbing Vincent Price to voice the villain was a score for the studio in a time when big name stars didn’t do cartoon voice over work.

This was one of the films from Disney’s dark decade, however; and it speaks volumes as to why the studio that invented the animated feature didn’t have a successful movie in the 80s until “The Little Mermaid.” “Detective” a musical, which the studio had moved away from in the 70s, but it would take this one and the equally flat “Oliver & Company” before they would strike a nice chord with “Mermaid”. The songs are hokey and don’t mesh with the darker mood of the rest of the mystery adventure of the film. It isn’t a shining gem for the studio or for the Sherlock Holmes canon; but it’s a fun enough romp for the younger kids.

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