Movies We Like
The Great Mouse Detective
Do you like Sherlock Holmes? What about rodents, British royalty, or old-timey pubs? Whatever your age, and whatever your tastes, I can assure you that this is grimmest and most interesting Disney animated classic, ever. I say this because it not only feeds the comic and suggestive needs for adults, but also prepares the kiddies for better tastes in terms of cinematic experiences. I watched it the other night and was shocked at how it not only pays an excellent homage to Noirs and Sherlock Holmes stories, but also because it has a fresh and almost foreign plot. Disney films, both animated and live-action, have the most success if they flaunt an all-American glow, as in ultra-feminine ladies or heroic male characters, young boys with man’s best friend, etc. It comes as no surprise that this movie was sort of lost among all the others, possibly for its heavy risquÃ© tones (like a drunkard bat, seedy pubs, and champagne fountains), and for the fact that it is sort of like a British comedy—you either love it, or you don’t care for it at all.
But if you think that today’s youth are simply too informed or sensitive about the vices of adults, you can watch it yourself and have a great laugh based on its wit alone. Basil of Baker Street is a mouse detective who helps get to the bottom of the most ludicrous cases. One day a toymaker is kidnapped by a peg-legged bat and taken into the underbelly of London. His distressed child, Olivia, is found by Dr. David Q. Dawson and brought to Basil of Baker Street, the Sherlock Holmes of London's talking rodents. Together these three discover that the toymaker has been captured by Basil’s archenemy—the evil Professor Ratigan (with the voice of Vincent Price). Their journey through the "twists and turns" of Ragitan's territory is designed both to save the toymaker and to figure out why he captured him for evildoing in the first place. Ratigan’s world is full of thugs with mustaches, scantily clad "dancing" mice ladies, tons of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and even roofies. Once Basil finally confronts Ratigan and his posse of beefy rats like him, things get more than complicated. Ratigan’s use for the toymaker involves well-crafted diversions and a series of traps in order to assassinate the Queen and take over rodent London once and for all.
Thankfully all of the controversial stuff passed over my head as a kid, but I obviously came to appreciate the humor and openness of it later. Now I know what you’re thinking…How could I possibly let my child see this? But it really is child friendly. Some parts are a bit scary, I admit, but no more than the darker parts of every Disney movie, and it also doesn’t attempt to pull at your emotional strings, but rather tries to be edgy and suspenseful. The plot and the design of all the characters are based on many classic films that have nothing to do with children, which is why I still adore it as an adult. There is also quite a bit of British politics meshed in as well. I swear you’ll never see anything like it again. Who Framed Roger Rabbit comes very close to that odd middle ground where things are just loony enough to entertain the young and amuse the old, but this one is just aesthetically pleasing all around.
The Great Mouse Detective also has great design and some awesome actors doing the voices of these toons. Unlike most other Disney movies, there isn’t constant singing (only a few jazzy piano/vocal sets in the bars), and therefore you don’t have to worry about some corny song being stuck in your memory for the rest of your life. So as Basil would say, "Quick! They’re not a moment to lose!" Grab a copy and cuddle up with the youngsters, or solo, and enjoy my favorite Disney film ever.