Emma Watson gets animated

 
 

The rumors that she would be taking over a Chanel perfume contract from Keira Knightley may have turned out to be false, but Emma Watson is still finding ways to branch out beyond Harry Potter. Earlier this year I wrote about her attachment to the project Napoleon and Betsy, where she will play a young Englishwoman who befriends the famous emperor. And December of this year will see the release of the animated feature film The Tale of Despereaux, for which Watson provides the voice of the character Princess Pea.

The official website for the film is now live, and it includes a still enabling us to see what Princess Pea will look like:

The blonde wavy hair may have been inspired by Watson, but the face reminds me more of the Italian artist Modigliani (who liked to paint women with very long, thin faces).

Sadly the Disney (and Hollywood) tradition of lollipop women with heads far too big for their bodies still seems to be in evidence, to judge from the trailer for the film (Watson’s character appears towards the end):

I have mixed feelings about the trailer. On the one hand, the visual style does look gorgeous (always an important consideration for me when deciding whether or not to go and see an animated film); and as well as Watson, the movie will also feature the voices of Sigourney Weaver (as the Narrator), Tracey Ullman (as servant girl Mig), Matthew Broderick (as Despereaux) and Dustin Hoffman (as the rat Roscuro).

Perhaps my hesitation comes from the fact that the film looks like a bit of a rehash of what was one of my favorite movies of 2007, Ratatouille. Or, going further back, of Dick King-Smith’s classic story The Sheep-Pig, which was filmed as Babe in 1995. Both of those movies were about animals who wanted to step outside their appointed roles. Remy, the rat in Ratatouille, becomes a gourmet chef instead of an eater of trash, and Babe, the pig in the film of the same name, becomes the equivalent of a sheep-dog. While seeing characters who break rules and defy stereotypes is always fun (and while I’m aware of the parallels with people who face real-life prejudices), it will take a lot for me for Despereaux to live up to the charm of Ratatouille.

There’s also the fact that Watson’s character sounds as if she will be more damsel in distress than feisty butt-kicker. Although the synopsis on the official website describes her as one of the story’s “heroes”, the truth is that that role seems to belong to Despereaux much more than it does to her:

After Pea is kidnapped, Despereaux discovers he is the only one who can rescue her … and that even the tiniest mouse can find the courage of a knight in shining armor.

All that said, I’m not writing off the film just yet. If the reviews are good and the story turns out to be well-handled, it could make a fun movie to go and see at Christmas.

What about you — has the trailer got you interested?

 
 

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