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The toymaker Flaversham makes the best toys
Of any mouse London has seen,
Which catches the eye of a villain who sends
A bat to abduct the old bean.
His daughter Olivia’s now all alone,
So a helpful gent must intervene.
This gent is, of course, Dr. David Q. Dawson,
Who won’t let her stay all alone.
He guides her to Baker Street, where they meet with
A detective named Basil, who’s known
For solving great crimes. He’s uncaring at first,
Having problems and such of his own.
But when he hears tell of the bat that’s involved,
This Basil of Baker Street knows
His nemesis Ratigan must be behind it,
A plan that he now must expose,
For Ratigan’s famous for being depraved,
The foulest, most wicked of foes.
This time he is forcing the toy man to build
A robotic clone of the queen,
Replacing the real one with his lookalike
To be the top mouse on the scene.
His cat will eat Flaversham and his young daughter
If he doesn’t build the machine.
So Basil and Dawson (Olivia too)
Ride off on one Toby, a hound,
In search of ol’ Ratigan’s peg-legged bat,
Who’s stealing and snooping around.
The bat grabs the girl and then gets away clean,
But soon an important clue’s found.
The pair of detectives drop in at a pub
In their search for the villainous chap,
And, after poor Dawson has much too much fun,
They follow the bat through a gap,
But Basil is soon made to feel like a fool
When he walks into Ratigan’s trap.
The bad guy conspires to do his foe in
With a mousetrap, an axe, and the like,
But can’t stay to watch since he’ll be much too busy
Directing his villainous strike.
Yet Basil snaps out of his self-induced shame
To save them all, even the tyke.
They rush to the palace, where Ratigan’s plan
So far has been going as planned,
But after our heroes recover the queen,
His brilliant scheme gets out of hand.
Then Ratigan flees, having lost his one chance
To be the great mouse of the land.
A chase through the city in two big balloons
Ends up with a terrible crash.
High up in Big Ben, dodging clockwork and gears,
Both Basil and Ratigan clash.
Though Ratigan hates to be branded a rat,
He turns into one in a flash.
The face of the clock sees their final showdown,
And both plummet from a great height,
But Basil’s inventiveness saves him again,
And everyone’s gladly all right.
Together, the Flavershams take their leave, but
Dawson’s now Basil’s new partner, quite.

The Great Mouse Detective, based on Eve Titus’s Basil of Baker Street book series, was a ray of hope for Disney’s animation department when it was released to good reviews in 1986. After Disney’s dark ages of the 1970s and ‘80s, with such good but unimpressive fare as Robin Hood, The Rescuers, and The Black Cauldron, this film proved there was still interest in well-made animated movies. Oliver and Company came next, but The Great Mouse Detective paved the way for 1989’s The Little Mermaid and the whole of the Disney Renaissance.

The movie is an enjoyable little Sherlock Holmes parody, translating the characters into mice and rats. While the film has few big names in it, Vincent Price steals every scene as the treacherous Ratigan, and the celebrated actor sounds like he had a lot of fun recording his lines. The other characters are appropriately likable (Basil, Dawson) or cute (Olivia), though not quite as memorable as later Disney efforts. The filmmakers even used some recorded dialogue from one of the original Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone.

The Great Mouse Detective is obviously aimed at children but does feature some aspects unusual to most popular animation, such as smoking, drunkenness, a burlesque-style musical number, and a scene in which a mouse is eaten whole, which made my mother uncomfortable the first time I saw it as a child. It’s nonetheless a fine kid-friendly mystery and even has some fairly exciting scenes. Though the climax was clearly inspired by the end of Miyazaki’s The Castle of Cagliostro, in this film it’s less cartoony, and the gears (made using early CGI) are more evocative of size and danger for the characters.

The Great Mouse Detective is one of those films I always enjoyed while growing up, and, though it may not have the same magic as it once did, it’s still a short but entertaining jaunt through Mousedom.

Best line: (Basil) “There’s always a chance, Doctor, as long as one can think.”

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 6
Entertainment: 7
Visual Effects: 6
Originality: 5
Watchability: 7
TOTAL: 36 out of 60

Next: #257 – Trading Places

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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