Nathan and Lane do The Mousetrap
"Great fun for all the family!" - The Daily Mail, "Laugh-a-minute mayhem." - Daily Star are just two of the quotes which adorn the back of the "Mousehunt" case and whilst "Mousehunt" maybe a fun movie with a few laughs but it is definitely not as good as these two newspapers make it out to be. With both feet firmly placed in the world of visual slapstick and pretty much mimicking the little guy taking on the bad guys scenario as per "Home Alone", "Mousehunt" makes one very huge mistake. There are no bad guys making everyone the same and in doing so you are left wondering who you should be routing for, the little mouse or the Smuntz brothers. This huge mistake is sadly the downfall of "Mousehunt" and makes it just another, slightly below par family movie.
When their father dies, brothers Lars and Ernie Smuntz (Nathan Lane and Lee Evans) inherit his prehistoric string making business as well as a dilapidated old mansion which time has forgotten. Feeling hard done by, their attitude soon changes when they discover that the dilapidated old mansion is in fact worth millions. But one thing stands in their way of cashing in and selling off the old building, a small mouse which has made it its home and seems intent on keeping it that way.
"Mousehunt" actually starts off reasonably well with the funeral of the brother's father, where after a mishap with the coffin we get treated to the sort of visual slapstick which dominates the movie. Even after 20 minutes "Mousehunt" is still going strong providing slapstick which is almost on par with the greats such as Laurel and Hardy and there is even a reasonable plot, but then things go badly wrong.
Whilst the idea of pitting the brothers against the little mouse is amusing the fact that the writers have not decided who the good guys and bad guys are results in a lot of the humour failing because we are never cheering for either one. If you look at "Home Alone" when the two robbers get smashed in the face by a tin of paint it is funny because they deserve it. But in "Mousehunt" when the brothers get caught in their own mouse traps it fails to make you really laugh because they have done nothing really wrong. It also feels that after 20 minutes of setting up a reasonable storyline the director has pretty much given up on it, resorting purely to visual slapstick to keep you entertained. I suppose this would be fine for younger viewers who may not require and real plot, but for an adult watching this with their children may find it becomes tedious and repetitive watching the Smuntz brother's fall foul of their own plans time and again.
In an attempt to bring "Mousehunt" to an end, a predictably happy one at that, the writers seem to devise a rather strange ending which you never see coming because through out the movie they never build up to it. They have just devised this ending and plonked it on. Not that it is particularly bad but because there is never any clue to how they are going to it coming it seems rather contrived. Whilst I am anything but a prude there was two aspects of the movie which shocked me, seeing that it has a PG certificate and touted as a family movie. First of there is hearing Lee Evans character shout out the word "B@$#@rd", whilst this may not be the worst swear word in the world, it seemed very much out of place and as it only occurred once it was even more noticeable as being rather strange. Secondly there is a scene where Ernie's wife tries to seduce him dressed in only her underwear, and then in the next scene Ernie tells Lars all about what they did. Again this baffled me as not only did it feel out of place in a family movie but really had little to do with the story.
The only thing saving "Mousehunt" from being a really misguided movie is the performances from its two main stars and of course the little mouse. Having been a fan of Nathan Lane ever since watching him in the hilarious "The Birdcage" I am glad to say he doesn't disappoint. His character a failed chef who wants to make it big is not really that amazing, but Lane does his best with this rather simple character. The same can be said of Lee Evans, who seems to inject life into a character which otherwise seems to be pretty two dimensional. In some ways the pairing up of Lane and Evans is like bringing back Laurel and Hardy, with Lane being all bossy whilst Evans is all clumsy. In reality although the film has many other human characters, including a rodent catcher played by Christopher Walkern, the film is all about the brothers and the little mouse. Talking of which, the mouse is surprising good, and scenes where we watch him escape the brother's clutches are quite amusing. But sadly not everything works and a scene where we see him get chased into a piano by a vicious cat, a sort of real life Tom and Jerry, is sadly disappointing.
Whilst the plot and script may not be the greatest, director Gore Verbinski has done a reasonable job of keeping "Mousehunt" entertaining and maybe in the knowledge that what he was working with was not that great, he has put most of the films emphasis on the visual humour. Whilst not everything works as planned all the visual gags are impressive and the one which features a room full of mouse traps is probably one of the best. I wonder what Verbinski thinks of this film now seeing he is the man who directs the hugely superior "Pirates of the Caribbean" films.
What this all boils down to is that for a family film "Mousehunt" is sort of okay, it is amusing with some good moments of visual humour but sadly down to the fact that they never give us the good guy, bad guy element is never manages to be gut bustingly funny. The saving grace of the film is the performances of Nathan Lane and Lee Evans who bring to life their predominantly flat characters and of course the mouse which is amazingly cute. Compared to films such as "Home Alone" it does feel quite inferior and with the inclusion of a swear word as well as references to sex I do question whether this is right for all families. But never the less, it is an okay comedy which having watched once will bring a smile to your face but will not ever need to be revisited.