Disney Flashback: The Great Mouse Detective (1986)

I received this Blu-ray for Christmas, a throwback to my Holmes-soaked childhood. The Great Mouse Detective came during one of those renaissances of Sherlockiana: Young Sherlock Holmes had come out the year before, and Jeremy Brett was acting in Granada Television's series. Other films capitalizing on Doyle's famed character were forthcoming, such as Without a Clue in 1988. He was having a heyday, so why wouldn't Disney join in?

I wouldn't count The Great Mouse Detective as one of Disney's greatest works, however. It was the last animated feature before the Mouse House relaunched itself with The Little Mermaid in 1989, and as such TGMD shows some hallmarks of decline and/or transition. Though I loved this movie as a child, watching it now only instills a desire to see a less bumbling take on Watson (here the mouse's name is Dawson), and more of a story—the plot in TGMD being rather thin, even for a children's movie, and most especially for a Sherlock Holmes tale. Questing minds require more meat.

What did surprise me on re-viewing this film was the violence. Though off-screen (a mouse eaten by a cat) or unrealized (villain Ratigan attempts to squash Basil and Dawson with an elaborate trap, a young girl mouse is nearly caught in the cogs of the Clock Tower), the implications are quite gruesome.

As an amusing aside, when thinking about mice living in tandem with humans . . . If one were to notice a stream of mice entering Buckingham Palace . . . And then notice they all had little hats and coats and such . . . Wouldn't you be primed to think, Holy shit they've learned to sew! or something? But maybe you wouldn't immediately assume they'd done it for themselves. Maybe you'd think, Who the hell is dressing up all these mice? It wouldn't be until you saw them in the little airship that you'd really start to worry. Isn't that cute? Kill them.

The fact that my mind was wandering in such directions during this movie probably reveals something about its inability to completely engage me. TGMD stands as a kind of testament to a time in which things were shifting—in entertainment, in sensibilities, in the world at large. It works as a kind of touchstone for that but doesn't hold up so very well on the whole. My kids found it marginally interesting, perhaps more as a relic designed to let them better understand me as their mother, but it isn't something they'll ask to watch again any time soon. And I probably won't either, until another wave of nostalgia hits me.

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