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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 1/22/99



Mouse Hunt
1997 (1998) - DreamWorks S.K.G.

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Film Rating: B
A dark comedy as much for adults as for children. There's some genuinely funny moments here, and some great performances by accomplished actors. Christopher Walken steals the show in a supporting role.

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-/A+/B+
The film is very dark, but the transfer is excellent, in anamorphic widescreen. The 5.1 sound field is rich and full - in a word, excellent. And you get some nice extras on this DVD.

Overall Rating: A
Dark humor, combined with good physical slapstick. The disc's production values are first-rate. And the performances are excellent. Definitely worth a look.

Specs and Features

98 mins, PG, letterboxed widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 enhanced, full frame (1.33:1), dual-sided, Amaray keep case packaging, 2 theatrical trailers, deleted scenes, cast & crew bios, production notes, film-themed menu screens with animation and sound effects, scene access (20 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1), Spanish & French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English & Spanish, Close Captioned

Review

Ernie and Lars Smuntz (Nathan Lane and Lee Evans) are brothers who couldn't be more different from each other. Ernie is a highly successful restaurateur, while Lars is... well, financially challenged, having toiled in his father's broken-down string factory. But after their father dies, Ernie's luck changes. An embarrassing incident forces the closure of his restaurant, and leads to financial ruin. Now both he and Lars have no choice - they're forced to make a go of the ailing business their father left them. They also must try to sell their father's only other possession - a broken down old Victorian mansion.

But the fates have yet another surprise. The mansion turns out to be the fabled missing "La Rue" - the last creation of a brilliant 19th Century architect. If they fix it up, Ernie and Lars should be able to sell it for millions. Alas, there's a problem. The mansion's sole occupant, an extremely clever mouse, is quite happy with his current home, and has no intention of leaving. Ernie and Lars set out to evict the tiny creature, and what ensues is a hilarious series of physical gags, practical disasters, and general misadventures.

Mouse Hunt is one of those movies that could have failed miserably if it wasn't well executed. To start with, the film depends heavily on the actions of one very pesky rodent - and rodents have a way of being rather temperamental on a film set, to say the least. To bring the tiny creature to life, first-time director Gore Verbinski enlisted the aid of several real mice... and the talents of Hollywood creature effects wunderkind, Stan Winston. The result is a very convincing non-human character, that creates no end of trouble for the Smuntz brothers.

Nathan Lane and Lee Evans, both respected theater actors, are excellent in their respective performances. And you might recognize Lane-pal Ernie Sabella as the keeper of the animal shelter. But it's Christopher Walken that steals the show, as a bizarre (and when is Walken ever NOT bizarre in a film?) exterminator named Ceasar, whom the brothers enlist to remove their pest. Walken prowls the halls of the mansion, armed with an odd assortment of devices that would make a Ghostbuster envious. He can even tell the mouse has a slight calcium deficiency by... well, we won't go into that now. Suffice it to say the guy cracks me up.

The picture on this DreamWorks DVD, one of the studio's first set of releases to the format, is very good indeed. As mentioned before, Mouse Hunt is a dark film, full of subdued tones, and moody interior shots. But the film transfer, in thankfully anamorphic widescreen, has been very well done. The clarity of the print used is excellent, and few compression artifacts can be seen - something of a victory given the darkly lit cinematography. The detail is generally very good, and the colors accurate (if again, a bit muted).

The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound is the true star of this disc. It is arguably among the best sound mixes I've ever heard on DVD. The sound is very natural, creating an excellent sense of ambience. The sound stage created is deep, wide, and blends seamlessly from front to rear. Best of all, the effects channels are fully used, with great directionality and smooth panning (both left to right, and front to back). Simply listen to chapter 7, and you'll see (or rather hear) what I mean. Lars goes after the mouse with a nail gun, and the sound is simply incredible, as the nails pound through the wall all around. Good bass and an off-kilter (if a bit overdone) score complete the audio 'picture'.

The extras and little touches here are excellent as well. As with The Peacemaker, when you put the disc in your player, the title menu appears straight away - you don't have to wait through the usual disclaimers. The menu screen itself is cute - full motion animation, with sound effects, and the mouse scurries back and forth across the screen. Selecting any option, causes the mouse to race straight for you, transitioning to the next menu page. The DVD includes both the teaser and full-length theatrical trailers, cast and crew biographies, production notes, and a section called From the Cutting Room Floor. Here, you can choose to watch any of 6 deleted scenes, including more funny material with Christopher Walken. Good stuff all around.

Bottom line

Mouse Hunt is an entirely enjoyable experience, made all the better on this excellent DVD. The disc quality here is terrific, and the sound, in particular, really stands out. As for the mouse... we'll the mouse is cute. What more do you want? Funny and absolutely worth a look.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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