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Ernie Smuntz: We can't handle any more intrusions.
Imagine if you were to create a comedic movie that's a cross between Tom and Jerry and Home Alone, have it star what looks like Mario and Luigi as the protagonists, set it in a Retro Universe of the 30's/40's and today, and for good measure, give Christopher Walken an extended cameo. The result would be this film.
Nathan Lane and Lee Evans are Ernie and Lars Smuntz, brothers with a recently deceased rich father. In his Will, he leaves them "the future of string" -- a Steampunk string factory with No OSHA Compliance -- and a seemingly worthless Victorian mansion. Oh, and spoons. But then the duo discovers that the abandoned house could be worth millions if it were renovated. Unfortunately for them, the place is already inhabited by a single rodent and he ain't leaving. Hilarity Ensues as the clever mouse thwarts the brothers' increasingly elaborate Zany Schemes to kill it, all while dealing with improbable house payments and the string factory's revolting employees.
This was the 1997 directorial debut of Gore Verbinski, who later gave us the Pirates of the Caribbean films and Rango. This was also one of the first movies released by a fledgling little company called DreamWorks and the one which established their rivalry with Disney. One wonders if they made the film center around a mouse just to be ironic.
This movie contains the following tropes:
- The Ace: The mouse
- Actor Allusion: Ernie, played by Nathan Lane, says "Hakuna Matata" to a vaguely ethnic foreigner at the auction.
- A very blunt one in the trailer:
This is Nathan Lane. You loved him in The Birdcage.
- An Aesop: Teamwork and sharing are good things. These are the last things Mr. Smuntz tells his sons.
- All Cloth Unravels: Lars ends up naked when he tries to run the family string factory
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: The mouse -- it's the whole premise of the movie.
- Lars initially lampshades this, which Ernie promptly mocks, though he later agrees.
"I don't think we're dealing with an ordinary mouse."
- Amusing Injuries: Much of what happens to Ernie and Lars(and Caesar and Catzilla).
- Angrish: The brothers have a short conversation in angrish after the first time the mouse blows them up. Followed by Unstoppable Rage, a complete lack of gun safety, and the mouse blowing them up again.
- Anticlimax Boss: In-Universe. After repeated and increasingly extreme attempts to get rid of the mouse fail, the brothers turn on each other leading Lars to throw an orange at Ernie, missing and knocking the mouse behind him unconscious. The brothers are in disbelief.
- Anti-Villain: Ernie and Lars.
- Apocalyptic Log: Caesar The Exterminator's log is found after the ambulance carts him away - we don't see what happened but it sure sounds terrible.
- Arc Words: "A world without string is chaos."
- Auction: The eventual fate of the mansion, which was ultimately averted by its destruction just before it was sold.
- Ax Crazy: Catzilla.
- The brothers ultimately become this after too many plans turn on them, destroying a fair chunk of the house they were trying to save.
- Badass Adorable: Catzilla and the mouse, but especially the mouse.
- Cats Are Mean: Catzilla is the pet of your nightmares.
- Chekhov's Bomb: The flea bomb
- Creepy Cockroach: In the beginning of the film, Ernie's restaurant gets shut down due to an incident where the mayor dies of shock after eating a cockroach head.
- Deadpan Snarker: Ernie
- The Dutiful Son: Lars
- Even Evil Has Standards: The brothers are Villain Protagonists, but they're not evil per se. Lars in particular frequently wonders if killing the mouse is really the right thing to do.
- Evil Laugh: Ernie does this everytime he chases the mouse or when he thinks he has got him.
- Fake American: The British Lee Evans as Lars.
- Foreshadowing: It's mentioned that the last owner of the house was found in a trunk in the attic. Caesar later ends up getting the same treatment by the mouse.
- The Fun in Funeral: Lars accidentally breaks the handle on his side of his father's coffin, causing Mr. Smuntz to fall out of it and into the sewers.
- Grey and Gray Morality: Roger Ebert's problem with the film. Essentially, the movie never really decides whose side we're supposed to be on. You can't fault the brothers, who are flat broke with sympathetic backstories, for wanting to get back on their feet. Nor can you blame the mouse for defending its home and its life. See also Inherent in the System.
- Isn't that kind of the point, though? In the end both the brothers and the mouse end well.
- This trope is also true of the majority of the Tom and Jerry shorts which this movie borrows heavily from. Perhaps it was done on purpose.
- Hand or Object Underwear: The outcome of the above-mentioned string factory episode. Ironically, the balls of thread Lars uses to cover his crotch appear to actually be his clothes in their unraveled form. Heh, heh, balls.
- Heads-Tails-Edge: Attempted resolution to a There Is Only One Bed dilemma.
- Heel Face Turn: After the house is completely destroyed, the mouse helps set the brothers off on a new future in making cheese string.
- Though it could be argued that this applies to the brothers instead, as they finally stop trying to kill the mouse.
- Henpecked Husband: Lars
- Hidden Depths: There are hints throughout the film that not only is the mouse very old and more than just a trickster, but that he also has some sort of connection with Rudolf Smuntz, most obviously that he knows how to make the Smuntz's incredibly unique signature sandwich. These hints are never elaborated on.
- Additionally, the fact the movie seemingly takes place in the 1940's allows for some interesting parody and social commentary on the period, if one pays close attention to the subtext.
- Humiliation Conga: Pretty much the entire movie is this for Ernie and Lars.
- I Ate What?: The mayor, before dying of a heart attack. The answer? A cockroach. Specifically, the front half of it.
- Iron Butt Monkey: Lars and Ernie survive getting blown up, rocketed into a frozen lake, and getting hit by a bus, among other things.
- It Always Rains At Funerals
- It Can Think: A rare non-malicious example (depending on your prospective) in the mouse's case. This goes into Up to Eleven levels since Ernie mentions that they were not dealing with an ordinary mouse.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Ernie does not think highly of his father Rudolf or the family string business at all, and has no problem making this clear. It's understandable though considering that Rudolf supposedly didn't give a damn about Ernie's restaurant and expected him to run the business with Lars after he passed away, even though Ernie had his own business to run. That, and the Smuntzes' string factory is outdated and barely makes any money until the end.
- Karmic Trickster: When left to his own devices, the mouse doesn't really bother the brothers beyond stealing their food, and most of the mishaps in the film are the brothers' own faults. As they start trying harder, though, the mouse starts getting mean in retaliation. At one point it turns on the gas and hands one of the unwitting brothers a match.
- Killer Rabbit: The mouse. The last owner of the house before Rudolf Smuntz was found dead locked in a trunk in the attic. Later, the ambulance picks up Caesar the Exterminator halfway through the film. He was found the same way, except this time someone heard his screams and called 911. Not to mention the rest of the stuff it does to Caesar and the Smuntz brothers.
- Large Ham: Cezar the exterminator (being played by Christopher Walken, this shouldn't be a suprise). The brothers also ham up everytime they get exicted chasing the mouse.
- Made of Iron: The Smuntz brothers.
- Catzilla qualifies as well. Maury offhandedly mentions how Catzilla had already been gassed at one point.
- Misplaced Accent: The Belgian sisters, Ingrid and Hilde, who sound nothing like Dutch or Belgian.
- Missing Trailer Scene: Lampshaded in the film's offbeat trailer:
"These are the cha-cha twins. They are not in Mouse Hunt. Tell your friends."
- Mouse Hole
- Never Recycle a Building: Justified as the mouse drove out everyone who tried to live in the house.
- Non-Fatal Explosions: Ernie and Lars are both blown up by the mouse twice (the first time, Ernie is blasted from a chimney and into a nearby lake) but luckily, they only have some soot on their faces and shredded clothes to worry about.
- Odd Couple: Ernie is tight-fisted and practical while Lars is dumber and more idealistic.
- One-Scene Wonder: Christopher Walken has an extended cameo as an expert exterminator, who, of course, fails to take down the mouse. This being Walken, it goes without saying that the character is an eccentric Large Ham who takes to pest control like a member of a SWAT team.
- Pounds Are Animal Prisons: You wish it were a prison. A little girl is forced to leave her beloved kitten at the pound where it's immediately gassed to death for absolutely no reason. This is Played for Laughs!
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The brothers both throw this at each other, in a naturally poorly handled fashion, after realizing each were making different arrangements for the factory without informing the other, as well as a particularly brutal defeat by the mouse.
- Refuge in Audacity: The entire film seems to run on this, but moments of particular note would be the very opening scene with the funeral, the over-the-top reaction to the cockroach that results in Ernie's restaurant going out of business, and of course the ending--both the false climax where the Escalating War finally takes out the mouse (it seems) and the real one with the Auction.
- Retro Universe: The film has a 1940s look, but seems to take place in the present day.
- Rube Goldberg Hates Your Guts: This makes up a lot of the physical comedy.
- Sanity Slippage
- Self-Made Man: Rudolf Smuntz
- Shout-Out: If the whole plot wasn't reference enough, the Catzilla scene is basically a live-action Tom and Jerry cartoon, even sporting some of the slapstick from there.
- "I know some people who used a mouse as a spokesperson. It turned out pretty well." Doubly funny when you realize that this movie was one of Dreamworks' first films, and they're one of Disney's main competitors.
- Sniff Sniff Nom: The mouse exterminator character mentioned above does this to judge the dietary habits of the titular mouse.
- Tempting Fate: "Now you know this house will last forever!" just before it implodes right behind Ernie.
- Too Dumb to Live: The brothers. They cause more damage then the freaking mouse.
- Villain Protagonists: Whatever their reasons may be, the brothers are trying to kill an innocent mouse whose sole crime is being in the house they're trying to sell, and the mouse is simply defending himself.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Ernie views his relationship with his father as such, never managing to gain much approval for his cooking profession, outside the string that ties the food together of course.