Iain Gray Freelance Writer

You should have seen it: Mousehunt

After three decidedly grown-up films (Hardware, Memories of Murder and Runaway Train), it was about time for Reel Life to find another hidden gem for the little ones to enjoy.

And, as with the majestic My Neighbour Totoro, we have chosen a movie that parents should also be able to sit through without fidgeting and annoying their children.

So we come to Mousehunt. As the title suggests, it contains no incisive political comment, no Machiavellian plot, no devastating critique on the human condition - it is simply a film about two men hunting a mouse.

Directed by Gore Verbinski, before he went on to bigger (but arguably not better) things with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, it stars Nathan Lane and Lee Evans (a wonderful comic partnership who wowed theatre audiences in The Producers) as bumbling brothers Ernie and Lars Smuntz.

When their father dies, they inherit an old house and a string-making factory. Ernie, a chef, is fired after a patron dies, and Lars is kicked out by his wife. The odd couple move into the old house, miserable and penniless.

However, they soon discover two things firstly that the house is an architectural marvel and worth a fortune, and secondly, that there is another, smaller, furrier occupant who is less than thrilled about being evicted…

One thing leads to another, and the brothers systematically destroy large parts of their des-res in their increasingly desperate attempts to catch the feisty little critter.

Lee Evans could easily have gone overboard with his brand of insane physical comedy, but here he tones it down to the level of mild hysteria that courses throughout the film, and Nathan Lane makes a perfect verbal foil to Evans’s slapstick larks.

Perpetual psycho-for-hire Christopher Walken sends up his movie-madman image brilliantly as a quite terrifyingly insane bug hunter, and William Hickey is memorable in a brief cameo as their dying father (he actually died very soon after shooting his scenes).

However, all this said, the star of the show is the mouse. It would have been all too easy to make it as cute as a button and the humans the bad guys.

However, the hunting is treated even-handedly. The titular rodent’s elusive behaviour and ability to survive the dastardly traps laid out for it will fill anyone who has had unwelcome visitors in their house with a furious dread. Yet his gutsy bids for freedom against terrible odds also make you root for the little guy.

To reveal more would spoil a lot of the movie’s pleasure, suffice to say that the ending is funny, heartfelt and quite charming.

Not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, Mousehunt is nonetheless a ridiculously enjoyable romp from start to finish, and a quite brilliant family movie.

A vermin infestation has never been so much fun.


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