The Great Mouse Detective Movie Review
The Great Mouse Detective is a 1986 animated mystery comedy film directed by Ron Clements and with the voice work of Vincent Price. It is the 26th Walt Disney animated feature and such a solid, often overlooked movie.
It follows a mouse detective who along with his friend doctor must chase a villainous rat and rescue the father of a little girl. The plot itself is both the film’s weakness and strength. Let me explain. It is good because it is very mysterious and adventurous, filled with excellent set design and a great use of various locations. It is also very engaging and really charming. However, it is derivative and there lies its problem. It is basically a Sherlock Holmes movie, albeit a family-friendly version with mice. And though it can be considered to be a wonderful homage, it is still too much influenced by it with the characters themselves basically being the same. I would have liked to have seen at least some change in its storytelling, but it unfortunately remained the same which is very lazy from the screenwriters.
The Great Mouse Detective’s character development is one of its strongest suits. Yes, these characters are basically Sherlock Holmes characters, but they are still very charming and endearing with the new ones being very good as well. Basil is excellent as this cocky detective that is seemingly cold, but with his heart still in the right place. As for Dawson, he’s also pretty good. I expected more from him, but he’s mostly well utilized and the relationship between the two is the highlight. Olivia Flaversham is a likable, but forgettable child character.
Professor Ratigan is such a terrific villain! He is one of the most underrated and easily one of the better villains in the Disney canon as he is so good. Vincent Price did a great job in this voice role, but the character itself is really well written and he is such a wonderfully theatrical, yet menacing villain that posed real threat to our protagonists. He is easily the finest and most memorable character in the entire film. Toby is somewhat annoying as a dog stereotype ruled by mice which was weird, but Fidget was pretty good as a henchman and I liked Felicia’s presence quite a bit. And the Queen was also solid.
The animation is quite good here. It isn’t particularly inspired or memorable with the character designs being mostly typical, but Ratigan is exquisitely animated and his transformation near the end is phenomenally done. That whole ending benefits from some excellent use of CGI and the clockwork scene is gorgeous to look at. The film is also meticulously detailed with some great interiors. The animation is quite solid, but admittedly forgettable.
The soundtrack is pretty good and underappreciated. Goodbye, So Soon is solid and accompanies that iconic intense sequence really well. Let Me Be Good To You is also quite good and so catchy and fun. It also accompanies a memorable and really entertaining and well executed scene. The songs are really put in some great scenes here which is great. And of course the standout song is The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind. I just love this song as it is not only incredibly catchy and well executed, but also because it perfectly showcases its villain and presents his personality and goal in the quickest way possible. And it is just so damn entertaining. The songs are really good here, there are just three of them, but all three are quite good. As for the score, it is also pretty good with some quite memorable moments here and there.
The Great Mouse Detective is an incredibly effervescent and likable movie that isn’t the most ambitious excursion, but is so much fun and has a lot of charm. The highlights for me, apart from those songs and their scenes, are the opening scene and the ending. The opening is so intense and very mature. It is very atmospheric and it sets up this story perfectly, ending in some really good, fittingly retro title score. The ending is so heartwarming. When Basil says goodbye to Olivia, that moment is touching. But the entire finale with the doctor staying and becoming his personal assistant is such a great conclusion to this story, the one that emphasizes their friendship and partnership perfectly. The clockwork scene is also very well executed and even intense.
Yes, this film has some pretty good action sequences. The plot itself is forgettable and unfortunately the entire movie is like that which is its biggest problem, but the action is really well done and always fun to watch. The pacing is also pretty good and although leisurely, I liked that about it as it fits the mood of the story. It is well scored and solidly animated, but the directing could have been better and the film could have used more ambition and more interesting and unique plot points to it. The humor is solid, but there aren’t that many funny moments here. The imagery is great with some locations being really memorable and detailed. The dialogue is also quite solid and it has some fine lines in it. The film is somewhat clever, but typical and could have used more energy and originality in its execution. But it admittedly has a big heart with some scenes being incredibly heartwarming. And it is also very charming. The Great Mouse Detective isn’t one of the more memorable Disney flicks, but it is still quite solid and certainly one of the better 80s efforts from Disney. It isn’t on the level of ‘The Fox and the Hound‘ of course, but it is better than ‘The Black Cauldron‘ and it is certainly superior to ‘Oliver & Company’.