The Great Mouse Detective (1988): United States – directed by Ron Clements, Burny Mattinson, Dave Michener, and John Musker
Rated G by the MPAA – contains an evil rat
And so we continue our trek through the Disney vault. It has been very interesting looking at these movies with adult eyes. Certain themes pop out, dark, evil moments are more apparent, and it’s amazing how much smoking these cartoon characters did back in the day. But such discussions are better left for another day.
The Great Mouse Detective begins with a heartwarming scene in a small shop in London of young Olivia Flaversham (voice of Susanne Pollatschek) and her toy-maker father. He has just presented her with a new toy when there is some noise at the door. After a moment a terrifying bat bursts through the window and absconds with Olivia’s father.
We then meet Dr. Dawson (Val Bettin), a pudgy surgeon just returned from Afghanistan. He stumbles upon poor Olivia, who is out in the cold and rain looking for Basil of Baker Street (Barrie Ingham), a detective famous for hunting down missing persons (or mice.)
Together they locate the eccentric detective, though they find it difficult to interrupt him in the middle of his sleuthing. Once Basil learns that it was a bat that stole Olivia’s father, however, he is more than eager to begin the chase. You see, Basil’s been on the trail of the notorious Professor Ratigan (Vincent Price), an underground crime lord who is always up to something evil, for quite some time. But whenever Basil gets within striking distance the Professor eludes his grasp. This time, however, the detective and his two new friends are bound to be more successful in their endeavor.
With the help of a friendly dog named Toby, who is the pet of a human who looks suspiciously like Sherlock Holmes (and sounds like him, since they sampled clips of Basil Rathbone speaking from one of his earlier films) the trio embarks on what will surely be an exciting adventure. Along the way they meet the bat Fidget and Ratigan’s enormous pet cat, along with the Professor’s numerous thugs.
The Great Mouse Detective is a perfectly satisfactory Disney film. It contains all the necessary elements, including a cute youngster, a cool, indomitable hero, and an evil villain. There are the requisite sidekicks, both good and bad. The plot barrels along and there’s hardly a dull moment in the entire 74 minutes of the film. There are several memorable characters, even if most of them are lifted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s imagination. Vincent Price lends his distinct voice to Ratigan, but the villain too frequently erupts in anger to be a truly terrifying, sinister bad guy.
This film is a good example of a fun Disney movie. It is exciting and enjoyable but doesn’t reach the emotional depths of some of Disney’s later features, and it’s hardly worth mentioning the musical numbers. I wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the animation, but that doesn’t mean it was lacking. The film as a whole is well produced and directed. It’s one Disney film I wouldn’t mind watching over and over again with my own kids someday.