Rated PG - Running time: 1:35 - Released 12/19/97

I went to this movie expecting it to be little more than Home Alone with a mouse. And in some parts it is. But there is a lot more cleverness to this script, and having an actor like Nathan Lane helps a lot. It is silly, but engaging. Frivolous but fun.

Lane plays Ernie Smuntz, who, along with his brother Lars (Lee Evans), has inherited a string factory from their recently departed father (William Hickey). Dad has stipulated on his deathbed that the brothers not sell the factory, but run it together — although its technology is so ancient, walking in the place is like traveling 100 years back in time. Neither brother is all that thrilled about owning the place, but Ernie is especially uninterested, since he is a successful chef at a high-class restaurant. But when his career is spoiled by an errant cockroach, he is forced to consider joining his brother in deciding what to do with the old rattletrap factory. Lars has just been kicked out of his house by his wife April, played by Vicki Lewis (NewsRadio), who is used to the good life and has grown disgruntled with the prospect of living out the rest of her days as the wife of an old-fashioned string manufacturer.

As the brothers are going over the legal papers concerning their father's will, they discover that he also owned an old abandoned house which is in a complete state of disrepair and has a lien against it for its entire worth. Since neither of them has a place to stay, they decide to make do with the spooky old place for now, thinking that the house is better than sleeping on the street. Unfortunately, the house does have a single resident: a very intelligent, very resourceful mouse. What begins as a simple attempt to trap the creature soon escalates into total war.

While they are endeavoring to exterminate their little roommate, the brothers discover that the house is actually the last known structure designed by a famous architect — it could be worth millions. Soon they are besieged by the world's elite art and architecture-collecting community, all eager for the auction that is planned the following week. The problem is how to get rid of that little bugger before he brings the house down (literally).

For a movie with such a silly premise, directed by first-timer Gore Verbinski, this film is surprisingly enjoyable. Lane's timing and delivery are impeccable, and it's unusual to see him in a role where he is so apt to get absolutely filthy time after time. His relationship with Evans is solid, and the two make a sort of modern-day Laurel and Hardy. Several notable guest appearances also add to the hilarity. Christopher Walken is very amusing as a commando-style exterminator who claims he can "think like a mouse." Lewis is delightfully spoiled as Lars's wife, and her hypocrisy comes through when she finds that her husband is sitting on a gold mine. Michael Jeter (Evening Shade) also appears as a pompous architecture afficionado. And finally, the 60 mice (trained by Boone Narr) used in the production did some amazing stunts, aided by one animatronic colleague (designed and operated by Stan Winston).

Mouse Hunt is a good holiday movie: no dark subplots or axe-grinding messages; it's just silly, lighthearted fun. ***½

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive