The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

Whoops, I made a mistake.

In my effort to watch all the Walt Disney animated films in order of release, I accidentally watched The Great Mouse Detective before The Black Cauldron, which was released one year prior.  I don’t think it’s really going to affect my overall movie experience, but it at least deserves a disclaimer, so it doesn’t look like I jumped right over a movie.

Okay, now on to the film.

The Great Mouse Detective is based on the children’s book series “Basil of Baker Street” by Eve Titus, which in turn is based on the famous “Sherlock Holmes” stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.   If you’re familiar with “Sherlock Holmes”, then you already have a pretty good idea of what The Great Mouse Detective is about.  Basil, a brilliant yet flighty mouse detective, is sought out by a young girl whose father has been kidnapped by the evil Ratigan.  With the ever-helpful Dawson by his side, Basil seeks out his greatest foe as Ratigan attempts to overthrow the queen of England (the mouse version, at least).  Basil uncovers clues in his attempt to locate Ratigan, traveling across London in his effort.

Ratigan is a pretty good villain, as far as Disney villains go.  He’s thoroughly unlikable, with plenty of vile behavior to make everyone root for his demise.  That being said, this movie has a distinctly un-Disneylike feel to it.  It’s dark and realistic, which makes for a good film, but it also doesn’t really feel like a true Disney movie.  A number of scenes were either a bit too violent or even suggestive to feel like a kid’s movie, and I couldn’t help think that this is better viewed as an adult.

The language of the film is a bit over the head of an average child, which might explain why I don’t recall watching this all that often.  If a film isn’t easily followed, I could easily lose interest, and at least as a kid there wouldn’t have been anything visually stunning about this movie to hold my attentionIt’s a pretty solid Sherlock-inspired story, but I could easily see it going over some viewers’ heads.

I liked The Great Mouse Detective, but I also felt like it’s easier to appreciate as an adult.  The slightly darker or more mature scenes didn’t really bother me, since after all, these things generally go unnoticed by younger audiences, but they still felt out of place.  The adult vernacular, coupled with the darker story, creates a movie that feels less like Disney and more like an animated feature geared towards adults.  There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just unexpected from a Disney film.  Then again, as of late Disney seems to be full of surprises, so maybe I just can’t go in expecting a certain type of story.

-Jess

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