The hints that The Mouse and the Motorcycle, based on the Beverly Cleary novel, is going to be offbeat come early, when Matt the porter (Ray Walston at his witty, impish best) delivers his innocent yet tantalizing opening lines and the camera angle changes to an odd, almost Hitchcockian perspective.
The Gridleys, a middle-class family, have managed to prod their wounded station wagon to the Mountain View Inn. They plan to stay the night and have the car serviced in the morning. Matt, who does ”a little bit of everything,” tells Mrs. Gridley and her young son, Keith, that the inn once was the busiest in the area. This is an intriguing statement because it now appears about as popular as the Bates Motel.
Then we get the weird camera angle, from the ledge of a window overlooking the entrance to the inn: It’s as if a very small animal were spying on the action, which turns out to be exactly the case. Ralph is a talking mouse who lives inside a wall of the room Keith is given. The two of them hit it off almost immediately. Before long, Ralph is soloing on Keith’s toy motorcycle, taking wild rides accompanied by pounding, captivating boogie-woogie (written by David Mansfield).
Although Philip Waller, as Keith, occasionally seems almost as stiff as Ralph (who has an excuse — his body movements are simulated by stop-action animation), young kids probably won’t notice. What they’ll see is a friendly mouse who becomes pals with a boy and risks his life to help the kid in a crisis. It makes perfect sense when you’re young. Remember? A-