Certified critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Member of the Houston Film Critics Society. Also writes for Bounding Into Comics and GeeksHaveGame.
A Delightful, Tender-Hearted Fairy Tale
Based on the Czech children’s book, Mice Belong in Heaven, by Iva Procházková, Even Mice Belong in Heaven is a stop-motion animated film directed by Jan Bubenicek and Denisa Grimmová with a screenplay by Jeffrey Hylton, Richard Malatinský, and Alice Nellis.
A young mouse named Whizzy wants to be the bravest, strongest, and best mouse that has ever lived. Her father dies standing up to a fox and has been celebrated as a hero ever since his passing. In an effort to show that she is every bit as brave and memorable as her father, Whizzy tries to stand up to a sleeping fox. She’s chased because of her actions, dies in the mayhem, and wakes up in heaven.
Whizzy feels out of place in the afterlife, but becomes even more uncomfortable when Whitebelly, the stuttering fox that chased her, also ends up there. Her mindset is that if she finds her father in heaven she can figure out what to do next with the rest of her afterlife. What lies ahead is a life changing adventure and the chance to turn a mortal enemy into the best of friends.
Thankfully, Even Mice Belong in Heaven isn’t overly preachy. Films can come off as overbearing or downright unbearable if they drown their audience in religion. It can come off as lame, boring, or it can interfere with the storytelling. Even Mice Belong in Heaven explores the afterlife and what lies beyond. It feels like a spiritual expedition rather than a religious sermon or awakening.
The worst aspect of the film is that it may seem like something it’s not. The character designs, specifically Whizzy and the majority of the mouse characters, seem incredibly cutesy at first glance. Apart from Whizzy’s father who sports a dashing mustache that fits the character perfectly, several other mice have hair and it looks overwhelmingly awkward. Nobody would ever put a wig on a mouse and yet every adult mouse in the film looks like they're wearing a toupee. The film addresses what lies beyond death, what happens after we’ve come to terms with what’s occurred in our lifetimes, and what might happen after all of that.
The fact that we never get to see even a glimpse of Hell (it’s only mentioned once in the film) is a bit of a travesty. It isn’t necessarily needed as the story of the film manages to do just fine without Hell being incorporated, but it would be interesting to see how dark it would be down there in a mostly lighthearted film like this and what creatures would need to do in order to be sent there.
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The film introduces life lessons that anyone could benefit from. The fact that every creature has a place in heaven is an intriguing concept. You also sympathize with Whitebelly from the beginning while Whizzy comes off as stubborn and close-minded. Whizzy believes that all foxes are killers and liars mostly because of what happened to her father. Because of how Whitebelly was treated when he was younger (bullied for his stutter and how he shied away from violence and eating other animals) as well as why he’s alone factors into the nature of his timid ways. Whizzy’s stubborn behavior seems to mimic the bigotry and racism of the world. Just because we’ve been raised to believe something our entire lives doesn’t mean it’s true.
Friends come in all shapes and sizes. Learning to stand up for what you believe in rather than giving in to peer pressure. Realizing life is what you make of it because it often is what you need it to be rather than what you want it to be. These are all concepts included in Even Mice Belong in Heaven. The animation of the film seems like it would help keep the attention span of a younger audience. The scenery and perspective in particular (the film typically feels like it’s told from the eyes of a smaller animal; low to the ground while everything around them is vast and intimidating) is executed so well. Forests look realistic at times and the amusement park sequence is loaded with vibrant attractions and extraordinary detail.
The other animals of the film are eccentirc and fun. Whizzy has a mole friend who talks like he has a cold. His nose is always full of boogers and, upon seeing him for the first time, blows his nose only to wipe snot all over his glasses without noticing. A crocodile attempts to help Whizzy bathe upon arrival in heaven and a seemingly gay raccoon guards the exit. The raccoon talks with a lisp and calls Whizzy and Whitebelly, “Little dirties,” after they fall into the sewer.
Whizzy meets a goat at the gate of heaven that is incredibly cool for the short time she’s around. Roaches show up for a gag that is way funnier than it should be. There’s an all seeing crayfish, June bugs on security detail, and a movie theater coliseum built within the walls of a whale’s stomach. The most incredible character in the film is a parrot that welcomes animals to the amusement park. The parrot talks in rhymes and is in charge of assigning amusement park attractions to animals. Upon completion, they’re given movie tickets that somehow lead to reflection on life and eventually the rest of their existence. The parrot is a lot like Choose Goose in Adventure Time, but he also has the ability to turn into a raven and appear and disappear in a puff of smoke. In a nutshell, he’s awesome.
Even Mice Belong in Heaven is beautifully animated and is centered on a fantastic adventure with little nuggets of inspiration and advice that seem to come about organically. With an underground mine cart sequence lifted straight out of Donkey Kong Country and what feels like a massive Pinocchio influence, Even Mice Belong in Heaven is an emotionally rewarding and meaningful experience for all ages.
© 2021 Chris Sawin