Australian Council on Children and the Media

Tale of Despereaux, The

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Parental guidance under 6 due to scary and disturbing scenes

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Tale of Despereaux, The
  • a review of Tale of Despereaux, The completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 8 January 2009.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Tale of Despereaux, The
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: Some scenes may frighten young children
Length 90 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Despereaux (voice of Matthew Broderick), a small mouse with a big heart, is the unlikely hero of this animated fairy tale set in the storybook land of Dor.  The land turns dark after the Queen of Dor dies suddenly in the middle of the happiest event of the year, the ‘Soup Festival’.  The king’s heartbreak strips the land of happiness and turns Dor into a world of grief and sadness, where darkness prevails.  Princess Pea (Emma Watson), heartbroken for the mother she has lost and the father who is unavailable, begins to feel trapped by the sadness and longs desperately for the light to return to the Kingdom of Dor.

Rescue arrives in the unlikely form of a small mouse with extra large ears.  When Despereaux is born the other mice quickly notice that Despereaux is different and work endlessly on changing him into the cowering and scurrying creature that all good mice should be.  Despereaux refuses to believe that he is too small to be brave and sets about teaching all those around him that in their own mind anyone can be a giant. 

On one of Despereaux’s brave adventures out of ‘Mouseworld’ he finds Princess Pea crying alone in her room.  He plucks up the courage to talk to her and what follows is the grand adventures of a small mouse and his many friends (Dustin Hoffman, Tracey Ullman) on their quest to save the sad Princess and bring the ‘light’ back to the Kingdom. 

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Loss and grief

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • a fight between the chef and the vegetable man where there is yelling, food and bottle throwing
  • Despereaux is chased by a rat which tried to kill him
  • Despereaux is banished from his family and community after he wanders to far from ‘Mouseworld’ and consequently is sent down into the dungeon from where “no light or mouse has ever returned’ with the rats and where it is assumed he will be killed
  • Princess attempts to kill Roscuro with a candlestick holder
  • The princess is tied up by the rats so that she can be eaten by them
  • Despereaux is sent by the rats to the rat arena where he is chased by a very large cat and almost eaten
  • book imagery that depicts battle fighting using swords and battle armour
  • The vegetable man is eaten by the rats when he attempts to save the Princess
  • The leader of the ‘Ratworld’ is eaten by the very large cat (not seen but implied)

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The dark and sad scenes involving the sudden death of the queen from a heart attack and the consequent grief of the king and princess
  • Miggery Sow is orphaned as a baby by her father who is too poor to raise her

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the above-mentioned scenes.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group are unlikely to be disturbed by anything in this film.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

Based on the children's book by Kate DiCamillo, The Tale Of  Despereaux is a charming story that captures the innocence of fairytales past.  Both children and adults are likely to enjoy the magical characters and beautiful animation.

The main message from this movie is to believe in yourself.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • forgiveness
  • courage
  • perseverance

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the consequences of:

  • grief and loss
  • anger, hurt and revenge

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