RED does not mean "stop." GREEN does not mean "go." Click on the CAPCon Alert image for explanation
CAP Movie Ministry
A ministry of the ChildCare Action Project:
Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP Ministry)
A 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Christian Ministry.
Entertainment Media Analysis Report
A service to His little ones through you in His name by His Word


(2008), G [PG-G*] (1hr 26min)

Final Score
Analysis Date
Date Posted
Influence Density
March 15, 2009
March 24, 2009

The #1 Christian entertainment media analysis service on the Internet. We give you OBJECTIVE tools NO ONE ELSE CAN to help YOU make an informed decision for yourself whether a film is fit for your family. Over 1200 analyses for parents, grandparents, pastors, youth leaders and more.
This space for sponsors.

PLEASE . . . . . . .

(a PayPal account is NOT required)
OR (preferred) by Check or Money Order.
The CAP is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit Christian ministry. Donations to us are TAX-DEDUCTIBLE

Stay informed ...OBJECTIVELY...
on what Hollywood feeds your kids. SUBSCRIBE
(or unsubscribe)
to our FREE text-only email version of these reports and our COMING SOON notices.
Email this report to friends and
tell them about the CAP Ministry:

Christian Long Distance

(While the Scriptural references are certainly not subjective, my commentary may be and sometimes is somewhat subjective.)

If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary.

(2008), G [PG-G*] ... should have been rated PG.

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Universal Pictures, Relativity Media, Larger Than Life Productions, Framestore Feature Animation, Universal Animation Studios
Distribution (US): Universal Pictures
Director(s): Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen
Producer(s): Robin Bissell, Celia Boydell, Casey Crowe, Peiyu H. Foley, Ryan Kavanaugh, David Lipman, Jamal McLemore, Gary Ross, William Sargent, Tracy Shaw, Allison Thomas
Book: Kate DiCamillo
Writer: Gary Ross
Screen Story: Will McRobb, Chris Vicardi
Music: William Ross
Film Editing: Mark Solomon
Casting: Debra Zane
Production Design: Evengi Tomov
Art Direction: Oliver Adam
Viewed with Universal Studios Home Entertainment Screener's Package

This film analysis is sponsored by the congregation of The Chapel of the Good Shepherd and by E&HP. The screener's package (DVD and press kit) was provided by Edify Media Public Relations. The film will be available on DVD and Blu-Ray April 7, 2009 from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

Before I get into the story and our analysis of it, let me discuss some of the parameters of our analysis of animated features.

One of the premises we follow in assessing the moral merit of movies is that an influence (such as behaviors demonstrated in and as entertainment) does not have to be real to influence, whether for good or bad. Take for example Disney's Old Yeller when Travis shot rabid Old Yeller. It was a very moving portrayal but neither was the dog rabid or killed. However tear-jerking the scene was, it was just a scene in a film with an actor discharging a rifle (quite probably with a blank load with the sound dubbed) at what the story led the viewer to believe was Old Yeller to kill it because it was a health threat to people. Though no dog was actually killed there probably was not a dry eye in the theater for its first showing as well as during many of the re-runs and video playings across the world since. Again I say an influence does not have to be real to influence. Filmmakers are expert at conjuring emotions with a complex mix of sight and sound and, whether intentional, inherently at creating a bank of behavioral choices from which withdrawals can be made in an instant.

Another premise for animated features is that personification of animated characters makes "people" of them to the young observer: personification of them gives them a personality with a complex attitude and with hopes, dreams, expectations, plans, emotions -- just like humans. Therefore, trauma to them is, for all intents and purposes, the same as trauma to live actors and actresses. Even a non-human cinematic character, when portrayed with human qualities, causes the observer--especially children--to feel a human bond with that character. Thus, we treat violence in and as entertainment against an animated character the same as violence against live actors and actresses.

One more premise (the last one I will discuss :-) is that a noble destination does not excuse an ignoble path. Specifically, ultimate redemption of a bad-guy story character does not erase the influence of his previous heinous deeds. His evil deeds have been planted in the minds of those who saw them. Granted, most good stories must present conflict, i.e., good versus evil to have any kind of "story" to them. So be it. Our policy is to let Hollywood make anything they wish. God said evil would be rampant in the end times. But as long as what Hollywood makes teaches and/or causes our youth to sin, I will have something to say about it. Boldly. Unashamedly.

Note that this film was analyzed using the same analysis model, the same equations and the same investigation standards used on more than 1200 other films: even by using the same computer and the same investigator. After application of the model to more than 1200 films it is safe to say confidence is high.

Since an influence does not have to be real to influence, onscreen behaviors demonstrated by animated characters which can be reasonably duplicated by or incorporated into the behavior choices of children are treated as just as influential as if demonstrated by live actors and actresses. Maybe the book on which The Tale of Despereaux is based is a Newberry award winner. Well! So is the "patently negative", "morbid, depressing nasty little book" The Giver a Newberry award winner. More about The Giver.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) does not incorporate into their ratings matters such as the use of God's name in vain, lying, drunkenness and belittlement of Christian matters. We do. Hollywood is not the Author of the set of moral codes we live by (at least are supposed to live by), God is. That the MPAA disregards demonstrations of violations of His moral standards in and as entertainment does not lessen, negate or make go away His standards.

I am not apologizing for this analysis but many of the opinion pieces I've read about this film stated concern for the amount of violence and other matters in this film. I agree. So does the CAP analysis model. While my personal assessment is purely subjective, the results of the CAP Analysis model is not. This film should have been rated PG. Its final score of 79 establishes the film's PG-equivalence. PG-rated Films in the comparative baseline database earned final scores from 68 to 86 out of 100 and a final score of 79 places The Tale of Despereaux slightly on the high-side of the middle (77) of that scoring range. And after analysis of more than 1200 films I suspect the results of the CAP analysis model should be regarded as credible.

In a tale that is at times somewhat dark with life often existing in the shadows, it opens with a shipboard rat named Roscuro (voice of Dustin Hoffman) pining to dock quickly at the magical Kingdom of Dor where soup is the center of life. Soup is even more important than Christmas. Soup is so important that on the first Sunday of every Spring the Kingdom of Dor celebrates Soup Day with a special concoction by the royal chef, Andre (voice of Kevin Cline). Every one who can walk attends the gala celebration.

But this year, tragedy strikes the Kingdom of Dor. Royal chef Andre served the traditional first bowl of the year to the Queen. After she takes her first spoonful of it we see Roscuro as he s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s from his perch above the Queen to get a good whiff of the steam curling up from her bowl of soup. Roscuro slips and falls into her bowl. With the splash the Queen is startled and claims that something is moving in her bowl of soup. Soon she discovers a rat in her soup. Thinking Roscuro was in what she has eaten, the Queen has heart attack and dies.

The King is so stricken with pain by his wife's death that he decrees that soup and rats are illegal. Inexplicably, the sunlight and rain leave the Kingdom of Dor with no evidence of ever coming back. Clouds cover the land and sunlight fades to a mere trickle through the clouds. Though it is always cloudy there is no rain. Everyone now lives in a state of depression. Even Princess Pea (voice of Emma Watson) who fancies her life as that of the fair damsel locked up in the highest tower. Princess Pea even longs for rain -- a rainy day would be better than the days she knows now.

The world is now fractionated into the Kingdom of Dor above, the Mouseworld within it and the Ratworld below it ... where lie the dungeons of doom. Those who go there do not return. The children of Dor are taught to fear the dungeons intensely. And for a good reason...

Soon is born to the Tillings mouse family little Despereaux (voice of Matthew Broderick). Despereaux is odd. In more ways than one. He does not cower in fear like all the other mice. Nor does he scurry like all the other mice. And he has huge ears. All his adolescent life Despereaux, without malice, defies the norms of the community. When Mr. and Mrs. Tilling tried to get Despereaux's brother, Furlough (voice of Tony Hale) to teach Despereaux to cower and scurry, Despereaux learns nothing.

Even in school when the other mice cower and scurry under the tables when shown a picture of a carving knife, Despereaux thinks the knife is beautiful. Furlough tried to take Despereaux to the library to to learn to cower and scurry and eat some book pages. Instead of eating the pages Despereaux read them. Now Despereaux fancies himself as a sword-swinging, swashbuckling noble gentleman after the Knights of the Round Table. Despereaux extends that fancy to envisioning himself as rescuing the fair Princess Pea from the castle tower.

Amidst all this servant girl Miggery Sow (voice of Tracy Ullman), a homely servant girl for the Princess, hatches a plan to be rid of the beautiful princess so that she could become the princess. Miggery even had in hand the knife she planed to use. But instead, Miggery arranged for Princess Pea to be taken to the dungeon to be eaten by rats.

Little does Miggery know that she already is a princess -- [spoiler] -- the "Princess" daughter of jailer Gregory (voice of Robbie Coltrane) who gave her up shortly after her birth. And ...

I could go on for a long time but won't. There is much, much more to this complex and well-woven animated story with veteran performers providing the voice talents. Movement between subplots is nearly seamless and connectivity between characters and their contributions to the plot is indeed professional. But I leave the rest of the story to your discovery should you opt to view this movie.

Please recall what was said near the beginning of this Summary/Commentary " influence does not have to be real to influence, whether for good or bad." To put a point on that, a bad influence does not have to be real to influence badly. All too often folks try to use entertainment as a teaching tool. Too often, using what is seen and heard on screen to teach how not to behave teaches how to not behave.

The film indeed has some good things to say: forgiveness, courage and honor. But the good things to say are often embedded in and among some not-so-good things to say which, when once exposed to young mind, must be morally sorted and mentally cataloged for mindful selection as they inevitably surface as behavior mechanics choices. As Drs. Karen Nelson, a university psychology department head, and Larry Gilliam, a practicing counselor agree with me that it would be unusual for even the 16 year old mind to be able to fully separate fantasy from reality or to be able to fully anticipate the consequences of his/her actions; that such skills do not typically plateaux until the early 20s.

All I ask is that you take into somber consideration the findings we share with you in this report before you decide whether to share this video with your small children. After all, being prepared is a very good way to address what is sometimes captured by youth as dissonance created by even a well-told story at odds with parent- and Bible-taught moral standards.

Remember, we do not pretend to be film critics or main stream movie reviewers. We simply use His Word to tell you the truth about the content of entertainment -- content which the advertisers, promoters, trailers, previews, the MPAA and others won't or can't tell you -- so you might be in a better position to make an informed moral decision whether a film is fit. We tell you what is there. You decide.

Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - 38 out of 100
So many times someone swings a blade or other weapon at a story character, clearly in attempts to kill. There is really no other way to put it. In one sword-swinging scene of Despereaux's book-borne alter ego, the character clearly impales another character with the other character off screen. There is no gore and no visible impalements but often the suggestion of such behavior is more effective at influencing the observer than actually seeing it. When left to the imagination, a suggestion can grow exponentially, limited only by the observer's experiential maturity.

And there are two deaths. One of the Queen by a heart attack and the other by a cat (talents of Robin Downes) killing Botticelli (voice of Ciaran Hinds) , the quintessential bad guy rat, leader of the Ratworld.

The killing of the rat is unseen but undeniable. And there are so many other forms of violence: fantasy/dreamstate sword battles with killings; fantasy beast attacks, once in an arena to corral Despereaux from escaping the cat; lashing out at an "effigy" with a knife; chases with blades to kill; even intended murder by knife. Not to mention the fall of a rat from a great height then seeing its body bounce off the ground. Graphically.

The amount of violence in this film is the reason for the red CAPCon Alert light atop this report. [Prov. 16:29]

Impudence/Hate (I) - 73 out of 100
There is not one single instance of profanity in the entire 86-minute film. Note that the DVD says 94 minutes. We do not include prelude or rolling credits footage in the analysis process which thus shortens the total time. There are, however, a few other matters of impudence and/or hate demonstrated: sorrow-driven vengeance; lies; demonizing complying with the community mores; abduction/imprisonment out of hatred. [Rom. 12:19, Prov. 6:16 - 19, Gal. 5:19 - 21]

Sexual Immorality (S) - 100 out of 100
There is nothing in the film to even suggest any sexually immoral behaviors.

Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 84 out of 100
In spite of the G rating the MPAA gave this film, there is portrayal that wine improves the flavor of soup as well as a drunk character. So what? Since you've asked I'll tell you.

A 2002 study by the American College of Physicians (ACP) revealed that adolescent exposure to drinking in and as entertainment undeniably leads to abuse of alcohol among underage kids. The finding entitled Relation Between Parental Restrictions on Movies and Adolescent Use of Tobacco and Alcohol reports that of 4544 youths from grades 5 through 8 of fifteen Vermont and New Hampshire middle schools (90% of the youths were under fourteen years old) only 16% were completely restricted from viewing R-rated movies. Within the ACP study population, the prevalence of having tried alcohol without parental knowledge was

  • 46% for those with no viewing restrictions
  • 16% for those with partial viewing restrictions
  • four percent for those with complete viewing restrictions.

    The researchers selected R-rated movies because they assumed R-rated movies typically present more drinking than movies of other classifications. This assumption is no longer true. The researchers were not aware of the matter of R-13 proven by this ministry in 2000 with which Harvard University scientists agreed four years later. The bottom line? The focus is that the influence of adolescent exposure to drinking (and smoking) in and as entertainment is undeniable regardless of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) classification. [Eph. 5:18]

    Rather revealing of the influences of the entertainment industry wouldn't you say? And emboldening children to sin with drink in and as entertainment screams of violating Luke 17:2.

    Offense to God (O) - 77 out of 100
    At least three times God's name in used in vain though without the four letter expletive. One of those times it is a euphemism of God's name but it is clear as to what is meant with it. [Deut. 5:11]

    In addition, the day of celebrating the birth of our Lord, Jesus was minimized in favor of "Soup Day." And occasionally unholy powers are used to make changes, create life and enable unfair advantage.

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 100 out of 100
    There were no murders or suicides noted. Any death by police action, war or defensive killing is not considered murder but is incorporated into the Wanton Violence/Crime investigation area.


    If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ] or bold. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.


  • Prov. 16:29 A violent man entices his neighbor and leads him down a path that is not good. [The issue is the violence, no matter how "small" it might seem, and its effect on an observer. "A violent man" can be a man, woman OR the men/women/characters demonstrating the violent behavior/action on the screen whether for good or evil. Knowing of Prov. 16:29 you now know why violence, especially in and as entertainment, can embolden the viewer into aggression, especially youth. See Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children: Congressional Public Health Summit for more information. Further, God speaks darkly of violence 56 times in the Old and New Testament of the KJV. And see 1 Cor. 15:33 below.]
  • Rom. 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
  • Prov. 6:16 - 19 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. ["Proud look" Proud: ruwm {room} - to rise, rise up, be set on high, be lofty, be exalted. Look: ahyin {ah-yin} - eye, sight, conceit, pleased (with self).]
  • Gal. 5:19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this [and remain unforgiven] will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Rev. 21:8 But the [unforgiven] fearful [deilos {di-los'}; timid, cowardly], and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers [sexually immoral], and sorcerers [all forms of evil/magic to force or do harm], and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
  • Eph. 5:18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. [Since "drunk" is methusko {meth-oos'-ko}: to intoxicate; make drunk; to get drunk; become intoxicated, "wine" can be any intoxicating substance including illegal drugs or abuse of prescription drugs. The issue is do not abuse the body by intoxicating it [1 Cor. 6:19].
  • 1 Cor. 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
  • Deut. 5:11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain [vain: shav' {shawv}; false, emptiness, nothingness, lying, worthlessness (of conduct)]: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Jer. 37:9 This is what the LORD says: Do not deceive yourselves, thinking, 'The Babylonians [the destroyers from within] will surely leave us.' They will not!
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences and present it to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it. I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 Be not deceived: evil [kakov: of a bad nature, not such as it ought to be] communications corrupt good manners.
  • Rom. 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.
  • Jude 1:4 For there are certain men* crept in unawares [secretly slipped in among us], who were before of old ordained to this condemnation [whose condemnation was written about long ago], ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [a license for immorality], and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
  • Luke 17:2 It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. [Offend: skandalizo {skan-dal-id'-zo} - scandalize; to entice to sin; to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away.]
  • Ps. 119:133 Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me [let no sin rule over me].
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil. ["Evil" includes all things that are sinful.]


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.
    (The objective heart of the CAP Analysis Model, independent of and insulated from the Summary / Commentary section.)

    The Tale of Despereaux (2008) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W) - 38 out of 100
  • death by heart attack
  • action violence, repeatedly, some slapstick, most with blade action
  • depiction of human skulls and bones, representing death
  • fantasy beast attacks, repeatedly
  • fantasy sword battles, repeatedly, some individualize, some with battlefield populations, on with obvious off screen impalement of another story character
  • repeated talk of eating story characters and being eaten
  • arena-style best attack with crowd chanting for the best to "eat, eat, eat"
  • lashing out at an "effigy" with a knife
  • chases to kill with blades
  • crowd of story characters clamoring to eat a human story character
  • death by beast attack (off screen)
  • intent to murder by blade

    Impudence/Hate (I) - 73 out of 100
  • sorrow-driven vengeance
  • lies
  • selling a child
  • demonizing homogeneity with the standard of life of the community
  • abduction/imprisonment of the innocent out of hatred

    Sexual Immorality (S) - 100 out of 100
  • none noted

    Drugs/Alcohol (D) - 84 out of 100
  • portrayal that wine improves the flavor of soup
  • drunkenness

    Offense to God (O) - 77 out of 100
  • occasional use of unholy powers to make changes, create life, enable advantage otherwise not available
  • three uses of God's name in vain but without the four letter expletive, once as a euphemism
  • ridiculing based on appearance
  • "Christmas is nothing" in comparison to Soup Day

    Murder/Suicide (M) - 100 out of 100
  • none noted

    Interested parties, send us your proposal. Your link will appear on each new analysis report prepared during the desired period and, once placed on a page, will not be removed.

    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

    The ChildCare Action Project (CAP) is a nonprofit Christian ministry. We rely on public support. If you wish to contribute to the CAP, please send your donations to
    ChildCare Action Project
    Post Office Box 177
    Granbury, TX 76048-0177

    Your gifts are tax deductible in accordance with Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Tax Codes. Please feel free to write to us.

    You are welcome to go to the
    CAP Reports page
    or go to the
    Top of the CAP Home Page
    or the
    CAP Site Map (Table of Contents)
    or leave me an email message or comment at

    Thank you for visiting us and may God bless you. Prayerfully, we will provide you with some of the most revealing commentary and investigative reporting you have ever read.

    In the name of Jesus:
    Lord, Master, Teacher, Savior, God.
    Tom Carder
    ChildCare Action Project (CAP): Christian Analysis of American Culture
    100% dependent on your tax-deductible financial support

    Copyright ChildCare Action Project (CAP) Ministry

    Since December 5, 2000

    Christian Long Distance
    The Fundamental Top 500

    We exist only by your tax-deductible donations. PLEASE

    Features PayPal! You do NOT need an account to donate.

    Copyright ChildCare Action Project (CAP) Ministry
    A Nonprofit Christian Ministry