Home > Reviews > THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX – William Ross


December 19, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A delightful animated adventure based on the popular children’s book by Kate DiCamillo, The Tale of Despereaux follows the fortunes of the titular mouse, a dashing knight gentleman in a fantasy kingdom who sets out to save a beautiful, lonely princess from unscrupulous rats, and bring sunshine back to his home. The film has an astonishing voice cast, including Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Broderick, Emma Watson, Dustin Hoffman, Robbie Coltrane, Christopher Lloyd, Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, William H. Macy and Stanley Tucci, and has a score by the grossly under-valued William Ross.

Following the two appalling, annoying songs (“Soup” and “It’s Great to Be a Rat”) which open the album, Ross’s score finally begins, and what a charming affair it is. Fully orchestral, light-hearted, adventurous, cheerful, and thoroughly enjoyable, the score is a delight from start to finish. Ross makes occasional use of period orchestrations – cimbalom, harpsichord, lutes and fiddles and so on – but for the most part Ross relies on his orchestral sensibilities, and succeeds admirably. There is a real epic sweep to a great deal of the music, and some extremely pretty thematic material, from the lively flute-led “The Village of Dor”, to the rambunctious forward motion “Roscuro’s Fall”, to the soft, beguiling “A King’s Sadness” – and that’s all within the first six cues, before Despereaux is even born!

Despereaux himself is introduced to the world via a gorgeous, soothing choral motif in “Mouse World/A Mouse is Born”, that later goes on to become a recurring motif for Desperaux’s acts of derring-do in some of the action sequences, or his more introspective moments, such as the sweeping, tender, lullaby-esque “I Am a Gentleman/Mig’s Story” or the warm and inviting “Roscuro and Despereaux”. The action music is actually surprisingly powerful and bold, while still remaining within its Golden Age-style orchestral parameters: it has its first hints in the nostalgic “Once Upon a Time”, and later rises to the fore in cues such as the edgy, dissonance-filled “Cat and Mouse”, the fraught “Roscuro’s Apology”, the Williams-esque “The Quest”, the powerful “Boldo and Despereaux Charge!”, and the exhilarating “Rescuing the Princess”, one of the breathless highlights of a score full of highlights.

Of course, being a children’s film, the score has a fair bit of mickey-mousing and pastiche involved – “The Soup is Served” has an air of haughty regality, for example – but these moments are few and far between. Instead, The Tale of Despereaux is, by and large, a wonderfully constructed delight, filled to the brim with the sort of expressive, attractive, emotionally clear orchestral writing I adore, and kudos should go to William Ross for being one of the few men who continues to write it.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Soup (1:42)
  • It’s Great to Be a Rat (1:26)
  • Main Title/Prologue (2:31)
  • The Village of Dor (2:16)
  • Andre & Bolbo (1:25)
  • The Soup Is Served (1:07)
  • Roscuro’s Fall (2:36)
  • A King’s Sadness (1:52)
  • Mouse World/A Mouse is Born (3:07)
  • Lonely Roscuro (1:10)
  • The Royal Library (1:28)
  • Once Upon a Time (2:28)
  • I Am a Gentleman/Mig’s Story (3:38)
  • Banishment (3:06)
  • In the Dungeon (1:00)
  • Cat and Mouse (2:02)
  • Roscuro and Despereaux (2:10)
  • Mig Steals the Crown (1:18)
  • Roscuro’s Apology (3:44)
  • Gregory Gives Mig Away (0:51)
  • The Quest (3:55)
  • Despereaux is Back (3:12)
  • Boldo and Despereaux Charge! (1:38)
  • A Change of Heart (2:10)
  • Rescuing the Princess (3:05)
  • Epilogue (2:39)

Running Time: 57 minutes 36 seconds

Intrada MAF-7105 (2008)

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