Thursday, 7 May 2015

Basil The Great Mouse Detective

For a time through the late Seventies and most of the Eighties, Disney was obsessed with animals. Most of the Disney Animated Canon during this time were either movies about animals or anthro version of other stories (Such as Robin Hood). One of these was Basil the great mouse detective.
Obviously based on Poirot
Released in 1986 this movie saved Disney's animation studio following the debacle that was the Black Cauldron.
But is is actually any good? Or was it simply not terrible?
Personally I think it wasn't very good. 

As though the weather wasn't any indication
The movie opens in Victorian London where toymaker Hamish Flaversham is giving his daughter Olivia a birthday gift.
I think I developed diabetes just watching this scene.
Naturally like all good parents in Disney movies, a terrible fate befalls Mr. Flaversham as he gets kidnapped by a bat. While his daughter watches.
Hope your kids don't get nightmares
And so we leave Olivia sobbing in the middle of her wrecked home.
How generically horrifying
As far as openings go, it's really a product of its' time. Sure, on some level it's still creepy and it works, but the sugar-sweetness of Olivia is overdone.
Anyways, cue happy theme song.
Seriously, we go from a little girl calling for her Daddy to frigging bells and whistles for the opening credits.
Even if the kidnapping did stir any emotions they've all gone out the window now.
Anywhoo, after the credits we get an establishing shot of Lonodn accompanied by narration from our viewpoint character, Dr. David Q. Dawson.
This guy
No prizes for guessing which character he represents. He tells us that he's just back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and was looking for a place to live.
As it starts raining he wanders down an alleyway and hears sobbing coming from a discarded boot. Upon investigation he discovers Olivia. Being a kindly soul he listens to her story. She tells him about the kidnapping (Making the actual kidnapping scene pointless in retrospect) and that she hopes Basil of Baker St. might be able to find her father.
Dawson tells her that he doesn't know Basil but he does know Baker St.
So naturally the little girl goes off with the stranger.
What a great message for kids
I'm being a tad fecicious here. Back in the day there was less worry about kids going off with strangers. Not because it didn't happen, but because the media didn't scare-monger about it as much.
Anyway, Dawson and Olivia make it to Baker St. without any difficulty and are greeted by the landlady, who lets them in.
And fulfills every housemaid stereotype Disney has
She offers to get Olivia some tea and crumpets (Because we're British and have British things) and wanders off, giving Olivia and the audience a chance to look around.
I have no idea what this is meant to be for
The place is filled with various Rube Goldberg devices which I think are supposed to show off Basil's genius since they're all relatively crime-science related (Ash deposits from various cigarettes, footprints etc) but on closer inspection make no actual sense.
And then some racism bursts through the door with a gun
That's actually Basil himself in a clever disguise (using what appears to be a latex mask decades before the invention of latex). Without stopping to listen to Olivia or Dawson (He's completely unperturbed by strangers being in his home) he fires the gun into some cushions.
I see nothing wrong with this picture
After retrieving the bullet he compares the striations with those of another. They mostly line up, but not quite, sending him into a funk.
If you can tell what's wrong with this picture then congratulations, you're smarter than Basil.
As anyone who's watched NCIS can tell you, that's not how striations work.
Basil slumps into his chair and bemoans the fact that the evil professor Ratigan has escaped him yet again.
It kind of spoils the idea of a mystery if you already know who the villain is.
Anyway, he finally finds time to listen to Olivia's tale of woe.
Whilst literally playing the world's smallest violin.
After making a faux par about her mother (Guess what, her mother's dead. What else did you expect from a Disney movie?) he agrees to help.
Not because of sympathy for Olivia mind, he only agrees because the kidnapper was a bat with a peg leg named Fidget, a known crony for Ratigan.
Yeah, Basil's a bit of a jerk.
While he espouses about just how evil Ratigan is the scene shifts to Ratigan himself.
Who's busy being evil, naturally.
A tea-serving robot? You fiend!
He's forcing Flaversham to make some odd contraption. Flaversham attempts to make a stand and refuse but Ratigan just threatens to murder Olivia.
Just in case you couldn't tell, he's evil
He then calls Fidget over and gives him a shopping list.
Very specifically worded too
After sending Fidget on his way he enters his den and bursts into song about how evil he is.
In case you couldn't already tell.
Heck one of the lines of the song literally asks if his next crime will be worse than all of the orphans and widows he's drowned.
Just in case you thought he might have been bluffing when he threatened to murder Olivia.
But wait, it gets better. During the song one of the mice is busy getting ridiculously drunk.
Because this is a kids movie
Right at the end of the song comes a line that rhymes with rat. While everyone else stays silent (Presumably trying to find another word) Bartholomew drunkenly yells 'Rat'. Ratigan doesn't like being called a rat so he makes an example of poor Bartholomew.
Wasn't this a kids movie?
And that's why I don't drink.
After forcing his minions to finish the song we cut back to Basil and co. They're reviewing the case so far. Technically they don't have any clues, but fortunately Fidget shows up and attempts to kidnap Olivia.
How the heck he knew she was there is a complete mystery.
I think Fidget's a better detective than Basil.
Terrible ninja though
He fails to kidnap Olivia, despite the fact that both Basil and Dawson go charging straight off and leave her all alone.
And he so generously gave them a clue to follow too
Basil runs back all excited. He plans to use the hat to track down Fidget. How does he plan to do this? What forensic secrets does the hat contain that point to his location which only a genius mind like basil's could possibly deduce? How does Basil do it?
He just gets Sherlock's dog to track the scent.
Well, whatever works I suppose.
After some silly stuff about Toby taking a dislike to Dawson for no apparent reason and Olivia feeding him 'crumpets', Toby follows the scent.
That is not a crumpet. That is a muffin. As an Englishman I am personally offended.
Toby tracks Fidget to a human toystore. After making their way inside the group make an alarming discovery.
What kind of a toymaker is this? These things would terrify any small child. And if not then I would recommend getting them checked.
Anyway, the real discovery is of a bunch of toy soldiers who've had their uniforms removed.
And just like every other toy in this store, they're super creepy
Just as they're gathering more clues they're all distracted by the toys seemingly activating themselves. And Olivia, being a moron, follows some bubbles without telling either Basil or Dawson.
Even if it is Dumbo, there's no excuse for this kind of stupidity
Naturally it's a trap. Fidget nabs Olivia and shoves her into his bag. Basil and Dawson notice and rush to save her.
Human or mouse, this is just plain dangerous. What is wrong with this toymaker?
Despite their best efforts however, Fidget escapes. Basil gets angry and yells at Dawson for letting Olivia out of his sight. To his credit Basil does feel bad about this and relents, especially after Dawson shows him Fidget's shopping list.
While they rush back to Baker St. we pop in to see how Mr. Flaversham is doing.
His method to replace Olivia's mother could use some work
Interestingly enough, you can actually tell from that picture what Ratigan's plan is. Not that it's particularly clever mind.
Ratigan opens the door and reunites Flaversham with Olivia, but it is of course only to spur Flaversham to work harder.
Ratigan leaves and orders Fidget to lock Olivia safely away.
Somebody had to draw that. But after sealing her in the bottle (Seemingly unconcerned about the need for air) Ratigan congratulates Fidget on a job well done.
Until Fidget reveals that he dropped the list. And that Basil found it.
Ratigan takes this news rather well.
As does the cat
Ratigan laments his situation. Now that Basil's on the case it's only a matter of time before he arrives and finds the girl.
This gives Ratigan the idea to trap Basil and he orders the cat to release Fidget.
It's kinda horrifying that his ears have holes in them. It means he got chewed.
We return to basil as he inspects the shopping list in order to find any possible clues.
He deduces that Fidget has been drinking a cheap brandy sold in only the seediest pubs.
Also there's coal dust from a sewer lamp.
And finally, after burning the evidence (Not snipping a little bit off and burning that, but the whole thing) and exposing it to some very dubious chemistry he concludes that it's saturated with sodium chloride. Salt water.
So that means the culprit visited a seedy pub on the riverside which is located near a sewer outlet.
A seedy riverfront pub in London? Perish the thought
Apparently in the mouse world though there's only one possible pub.
So of course Basil and Dawson don some cunning disguises and enter the pub.
I feel as though these costumes are a reference to something, but I'm not sure what
Despite Dawson's ingrained politeness they manage to blend in quite well and order some drinks. Being a master of subtlety Basil takes the lead in gathering information. By asking the waitress if she's heard of Ratigan.
Not Fidget. Not any other known associates. Just straight to Ratigan.
Basil, world's greatest detective.
While they're waiting for their drinks the show starts.
The burlesque show. because nothing screams kids movie like a burlesque show
What were the Disney executives smoking when they released this movie? She sings lines like "Boys what you're hoping for will come true, let me be good to you." and "I'll take off all my blues."
Her entire outfit's blue. And during that line she removes her skirt.
Back to things that matter, Basil notices the bartender put poison in their beers.
I should stop having a go at Basil's lack of subtlety. Look at the competition
Oddly, despite having watched the bartender adding the poison Basil still tests the beer for poison.
He doesn't even warn Dawson first.
Basil is a bleeding idiot.
Fortunately for Dawson the poison isn't deadly, it just makes him hyper-drunk.
Alcohol, making people way more attractive since the dawn of civilisation
Dawson drunkenly falls off the stage and starts a barfight. Luckily Basil has spotted Fidget and slaps Dawson back to sanity.
I guess the poison was on sale?
Using the fight as cover, Basil and Dawson follow Fidget out of the pub and into some sewer pipes.
Let's just hope no-one flushes
They follow Fidget through the pipes until they reach Ratigan's lair where they spot Olivia stuck inside her bottle.
Sadly, Olivia suffocated to death. The End.
Basil rushes to the bottle but discovers that it wasn't Olivia after all but Fidget. The whole thing was a trap.
As the audience we knew it was coming, but it's still funny how over the top it was
Ratigan puts on the old affably evil routine, but Basil doesn't fall for it, calling him a sewer rat. So Ratigan instead calls out Basil's failings while his henchmen laugh, utterly destroying Basil's morale.
Now that's evil.
Ratigan straps Basil and Dawson into his standard-issue overly-complicated deathtrap.
Including a literal mousetrap, which is a nice touch
As he explains how he's going to kill them (Using a record-player as the timer. Since it's playing a song about how superior Ratigan is to Basil I give him even more credit as a villain) he also explains his evil plan. He had Flaversham build a steampunk replica of Queen Mousetoria.
Yes, you read that right, Mousetoria.
Kill me. Kill me now.
He explains that he wanted to watch Basil die in person, but he hasn't got the time. And apparently he doesn't have any spare manpower since he leaves Basil unguarded.
Oh come on Ratigan, you were doing so well. You had your evil plan all set. The hero is in your grasp, emotionally broken no less. You've already won. All you had to do was call your cat and have Basil eaten.
But instead you succumb to a cliche that was out of fashion twenty years before your movie came out?
You have failed me Ratigan.
So Ratigan leaves with all of his henchmen and Mr. Flaversham.
His exit was really cool though
We then cut to Buckingham Palace as the Queen powders her nose. Her beauty routine is interrupted by some guards with a present.
Nothing suspicious here
She even notices that Fidget's not one of her usual guards, but she dismisses it. Why is everybody stupid in this movie?
Seriously, other than Basil's dubious deductions everyone's a frigging moron.
The Queen opens her 'Present' and finds her robot duplicate.
The resemblance is uncanny
It's impossible to show in a screenshot, but that thing's movements are ridiculously jerky. The idea that it could trick anyone is utterly stupid.
But then again, considering the intelligence of the average person in this movie.
Ratigan shows up and his henchmen grab the Queen.
As they drag her away (Whilst Ratigan rings his bell to summon the cat) the scene fades back to Basil and Dawson. Basil's still out of it and he's ignoring everything Dawson's saying to encourage him.
Eventually Dawson gets fed up and exclaims that they should just set the trap off themselves and be done with it.
"Great idea Dawson. That way the movie will be over."
Basil spouts some pseudo-mathematical gibberish (The hay is the square root of an isosceles triangle?) and they set the trap off at just the right moment to stop the ball bearing.
Well, that was improbable
However, this triggers the rest of the traps, which not only cancel each other out but also free them and Olivia. Just in time for a photo.
I'm just as shocked as Olivia
All of this was not only improbable, but impossible to predict.
Oh, and unnecessary, since both Basil and Dawson are mice. So they have teeth.
Teeth that could have been used to gnaw through the ropes.
Since they're mice.
Heck, neither their hands nor feet were tied. And there's no way those ropes were tied tightly enough for Dawson to gesture as much as he did without being loos enough for Basil to just crawl out.
Gods this movie's stupid.
Anyway, we're approaching the endgame now.
Back at Buckingham the 'Queen' makes her appearance before her loyal subjects. 
Only to introduce her new consort, Ratigan.
Who has never looked so fabulous.
And yes, every single subject falls for it. Apparently the mouse world also doesn't have a parliament, since Ratigan immediately starts listing off changes that he plans to make.
And everyone accepts them.
I know that their primary water supply is the Thames but come on, this level of stupidity is aggravating.
Just as Fidget is about to throw the real Queen into the cats mouth Basil shows up and snatches her from his grasp.
I'm not sure what's worse, panty shots of a small child or of a great-grandmother
Oh, and Toby the dog chases the cat, but she escapes him.
Straight into the royal guard dogs' kennels. Where she gets torn to literal pieces.
A kids movie remember?
Back inside, Basil and the gang manage to subdue all of Ratigans' henchmen and Basil takes control of Queenbot, making her call Ratigan a foul Stenchus Rodentus, or sewer rat.
You'd think Basil would know the actual Latin name for a sewer rat, Rattus Rattus.
"Why did I have him install a nose-biting feature?"
Everyone tries to arrest Ratigan but he escapes by threatening Olivia. Again. Because there's no problem that can't be solved by threatening small children.
The extreme wedgie, however, was just for his own personal amusement
Ratigan and Fidget escape with Olivia aboard their airship, but Basil pursues in the most patriotic manner possible.
They couldn't even get the flag right?
Ratigan attempts to escape, but Fidget reckons the craft is too heavy and that they need to dump the girl. Ratigan agrees, but decides to dump Fidget instead.
Which makes no gorramn sense.
Seriously, Fidget's not only loyal and trustworthy, but he's also been consistently competent. henchmen like that don't grow on trees you know.
Also, if he'd thrown the girl overboard basil would have gone to save her. Either Basil would have succeeded and allowed Ratigan to escape or he would have died trying, also allowing Ratigan to escape (And killing two foes into the bargain).
Eventually after visiting almost every famous landmark in London (From Trafalgar Square to Tower Bridge) they crash into the clock tower that houses Big Ben.
I present to you the most British image you will ever see
Inside Basil and Ratigan find themselves on top of many cgi gears as they desperately try to murder each other. The music gets pretty darn grim here too, almost as if it expects someone to die.
It's not like it would be too great a loss
Naturally, Basil saves Olivia, which infuriates Ratigan. Just as basil is getting her to safety Ratigan charges, knocking them both off the tower.
Did you know that neither rats nor mice reach a terminal velocity sufficient to kill them?
As is typical of anyone falling off of the clock tower in movies, they land on the clock hands.
What follows is a rather brutal beatdown of Basil at the hands of Ratigan. However, just before the clock strikes ten Basil leaps to safety, leaving Ratigan to succumb to the vibrations of Big Ben, knocking him off to his doom.
And so Ratigan dies in the manner of all Disney villains.
And so the day is saved.
At baker st. the next day Basil is reading the newspaper, which heavily implies that they were knighted for their actions.
Mr. Flaversham and Olivia take their leave.
Dawson attempts to leave too, but Basil decides that he' much rather have Dawson stick around (But not Olivia, can't imagine why). Dawson stutters but when an attractive woman enters, asking for help, he agrees to become basil's assistant.
I have no idea why he'd want to stick around
This movie was just plain bad.
Sure, it had its good moments. Basil is enjoyably eccentric most of the time and Ratigan is amusing. But that's all this film really has going for it.
Some scenes were just plain horrifying, especially since some involved murder. Everyone wrestled with everyone else for possession of the idiot ball before realising that they can all just get one of their own.
Dawson is dull and Olivia is annoying. 
The only mildly likable character was Fidget and that's purely because of his fun way of speaking.
While the burlesque scene was enjoyable under its own merits it was wildly out of place, especially since this is meant to be a kids movie.

Well, next week I begin to pull apart a movie everyone else loves, but I hate.

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