With a rodent in the Macaulay Culkin role and Nathan Lane paired with British comic Lee Evans in Laurel-and-Hardy-style pursuit, Mouse Hunt calls to mind Home Alone. But closer inspection of this odd but not uninteresting hybrid—part bright, broad family fare, part subversive fantasy—reveals that this delicately composed first feature from commercial director Gore Verbinski shares stronger bonds with the work of Terry Gilliam than with the oeuvre of John Hughes.
Set in a wet, gloomy landscape that’s supposed to be timeless Delaware but might just as well be Victorian England, the comedy follows the mousehunting chores of Ernie and Lars Smuntz (Lane and Evans, respectively), squabbling brothers who have inherited a mansion. When the dilapidated house turns out to be the valuable work of an architectural master, the boys decide to sell; the vermin, however, thwarts all efforts at eradication. Charles Gibson, who did so well by pigs in Babe, conjures sweet visual effects, but the charms of Evans (from 1995’s oddball Funny Bones) and Lane (who’s at his best playing to the balcony) are lost in all the detailed hubbub. C+