Mouse Hunt

Mouse Hunt (1998)
Dreamworks Home Entertainment
Cast: Nathan Lane
Extras: Deleted Scenes, Production Notes, Theatrical Trailers

Dreamworks are clearly under way to beat Disney in their tracks with their classy family films and are even challenging Disney’s status with animated movies. "Mouse Hunt" was one of the studio’s early efforts to establish themselves as a full-blown studio. It marked one of the first productions completely financed and owned by the studio, while most of the earlier films were co-productions with other Hollywood majors. In a time where it seems that more and more studios pull out their family-oriented films for release on DVD to cater to the request for a wider variety in titles as the player base grows, Dreamworks Home Video answers the call with the release of last year’s surprise hit "Mouse Hunt", a riotous comedy starring Nathan Lane, Lee Evans and… you guessed it … a mouse.

Lars and Ernie Schmuntz just ran out of luck in their jobs and family lives. Much to their dismay, they inherit their father’s run-down, inefficient old string factory. Seemingly worthless, they don’t exactly know what to do with it, and completely overlook another part of their heritage, a crumbling old mansion. In need for a roof over their heads, they move in the house. Immediately, a mouse starts to drive them crazy. For days they attempt to catch the mouse, but the tiny rodent constantly outsmarts the two brothers, wreaking havoc on their nerves and bodies. The two brothers call in a realtor to have the house estimated for sale, but what they learn is more than they could have dreamed of. The mansion was designed by a world-famous architect in the late 1800s and turns out to be worth millions. The brothers set about to prepare an auction for the riches, intent to sell the mansion. First, however, they have to get rid of the mouse and that turns out to be the challenge of their lives. The mouse simply does not want to leave the house and now wreaks havoc not only on their nerves but also on the house’s entire interior. Every trick the two brothers pull off to outsmart the little rodent is countered by a disastrous awakening.

The film is a hysterical comedy, mixing the best elements of films like "Home Alone", "Caddyshack" and other slapstick films. Sometimes however, it switches tone, takes on a more sophisticated note. For example, when the character of Christopher Walken enters the screen, the movie turns into a witty, exceedingly well-written parody. Every second of its running length the films bombards the viewer with gags, silliness, and full-bodied slapstick humor, leaving little time to breathe. Nathan Lane and Lee Evans put in an unbelievable effort to act up against their tiny enemy, and only their performances of the rather dim-witted, luckless brothers allow the mouse to take on this omnipotent superiority.

"Mouse Hunt" is a splendid disc to behold, for it contains a <$PS,pan & scan> transfer of the film as well as an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer, restoring the film’s original theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The disc’s <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> transfer deserves special mention it is razor sharp and contains an incredible amount of detail. Dreamworks are using Warner’s Compression Center to author their DVDs and you can see the experience and superior skills of Warner’s technicians leap from the screen. There is no <$pixelation,pixelation>, no color bleeding, nor <$chroma,chroma noise> anywhere on this disc. Colors are vibrant with strong hues and deep shadows, without losing any of the original film material’s detail. The film boasts some very nice and elaborate sets, as well as carefully designed shots. It contains a vast number of effect shots that are scattered all over the film, ranging from use of a simple rod puppet all the way to full blown self-contained Animatronics and computer generated images. These effects are carefully composited with the real live action footage and the process to faithfully reproduce these images on video can be a painstaking undertaking. Oftentimes, flaws in the compositing of the effects become more evident on video than they were in the film’s theatrical release. This DVD, however, captures and reproduces the full magic of the film and brings it back to authentic life on your TV set, leaving you to wonder which is the mouse and which the effect. The film contains a dynamic, frequently playful score by Alan Silvestri, and the disc’s soundtracks faithfully reproduce the score. The English <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> mix is very well produced with effective, though not overly aggressive, use of the split surrounds. "Mouse Hunt" comes in its English original version as well as French and

Spanish language versions in <$DS,Dolby Surround>. The disc also contains optional English captions and Spanish subtitles, which are selectable from the disc’s funny, animated menu screen. Dreamworks have also put some extensive production notes, biographies, a number of theatrical trailers and deleted scenes on this disc. The alternate ending is a riot and makes one wonder why the filmmakers decided to go for the ending now used in the film. Either way, all the material creates a well balanced and solid DVD release.

"Mouse Hunt" is a truly delightful comedy for the whole family. It is one of those family oriented comedies that never give you the feeling that you are too old to watch it. The film works on different levels for different audiences. Some of the dialogs and subtexts of the film will only work for older viewers, while others are clearly targeted at younger audiences. Overall, this film is an inspired, hilariously funny story, well told and nicely photographed. The way the mouse mocks man and takes on human mannerisms in the course of it is simply hysterical. On the technical side, this disc is sure to please every DVD owner with its superb visual transfer and the well-balanced soundtrack. Don’t miss it or you’ll never find out exactly how string cheese was invented.