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31 July 2010 @ 11:08 pm
Disney Movies: #26 The Great Mouse Detective (1986)  
Entry #10 in the 'Watch all the Classic Disney (Animated) Movies' Challenge

Previous movies:
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)
Peter Pan (1953)
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
The Sword in the Stone (1963)
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
The Black Cauldron (1985)
Mulan (1998)
Tarzan (1999)
Brother Bear (2003)

The Great Mouse Detective

Apparently, this movie is based upon a kids' book.  Who knew?  (Basil of Baker Street, if you too have wondered.)  I had always assumed that Disney wanted to make a Sherlock Holmes film, ran into copyright trouble, and made this film as a 'tribute' instead.  Shows what I know!

After her father is kidnapped by a peg-legged bat, Olivia Flaversham seeks out Basil of Baker Street, the greatest detective of the mouse world.  (Mice world?)  She is aided by Dr. David Dawson, but narcissistic Basil is initially uninterested in helping the child find her parent.  It is only after she describes the kidnapper that Basil links the crime to his arch-nemesis, the evil Ratigan, and agrees to take her case.  With the aid of Toby, a bloodhound that also acts as Basil's transportation about London, the trio track the bat Fidget to a toy store.  He escapes, taking Olivia with him, but Basil and Dr. Dawson have all the clues they need to track down Ratigan's lair, unravel his evil plans and save the Flavershams and the Queen of England.  It's all in a day's work for the world's greatest (mouse) detective!

I've been trying to remember if I've seen this movie before.  I know that I've seen clips and bits of it on TV over the years, but I honestly can't recall sitting through the entire film.  Watching it now, I was struck by how dark The Great Mouse Detective is.  I'm not just talking about the color palette, but that's certainly a place to start.  Set in London at the very end of the 19th century, the movie uses dark, muted colors and heavy shadows.   It shows a London of fog and grit, where danger can lurk around every corner.  Then we have the list of 'kid taboos' that appear in the movie: Basil brandishes a gun, a mouse gets drunk, the drunk mouse is murdered barely off-screen, Basil smokes, Dr. Watson gets drunk/drugged at a bar, a female mouse removes articles of clothing while singing "Let Me Be Good To You" and so on and so on.  None of this particularly bothered me, and it certainly wouldn't keep me from letting a kid watch the movie, but I was surprised so many of these elements appeared in one of Disney's 'cute animal' stories.  These are straight from the stories about Sherlock Holmes, though, so is it any surprise?  Not really.

Basil Rathbone's performances as Sherlock Holmes were a huge, obvious inspiration to the storytellers.  Basil's named for the actor, and most of his mannerisms hearken back to Rathbone, too.  Vincent Price has a funny (and extremely hammy) performance as the villain Ratigan.

There was a scene in which Basil and Dr. Watson put on disguises and go to a bar, and watch a singer perform her act upon a stage while Watson gets buzzed on a drugged drink.  It's kind of a pointless scene, in that it doesn't really do much to move the plot forward.  It's pretty much there, near as I can tell, to give the storytellers a chance to put another song into the movie.  (There are only three songs in the entire film, and two are practically background music.  It's unusual for musical-friendly Disney.)  Save for this particular scene, the movie flows pretty smoothly and quickly.

I was not especially fond of The Great Mouse Detective, but that was for very personal reasons, namely a complete lack of interest in Sherlock Holmes and the Holmesian style of mystery tale.  I've never cared for it.  It's a pretty good movie, in spite of that.

7/10 stars