The Mouse That Roared (1959)

THE MOUSE THAT ROARED (1959)
Article #1568 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-30-2005
Posting Date: 11-27-2005
Directed by Jack Arnold
Featuring Peter Sellers, Jean Seberg, William Hartnell

A tiny country decides to invade the U.S. in the hopes of receiving massive government aid when they lose. However, through a strange quirk, they manage to win the war.

I was disappointed by this movie when I was a kid; despite the fact that it featured the guy who played Inspector Clouseau, I didn’t think it was all that funny. I like it much better nowadays, and I think that’s because the movie’s strengths are better appreciated by adults. The movie isn’t funny so much for its gags, but rather for its clever premise, its satirical jabs, and the great performances of Peter Sellers in multiple roles. Though none of his three roles is as amusing as his Clouseau character, they are still examples of his consummate skill as an actor. One thing that impresses me with Sellers is that when he plays multiple roles, he doesn’t come across as showing off; each role seems to be given the same thought, care and subtlety, and he feels very much at ease with playing against himself. I also like the way that the movie doesn’t load itself up with scenes where Sellers’ characters interact with each other in the same frame, as this has a tendency to distract from the performances themselves. There are a number of nice touches; the Columbia logo gets in on the humor at one point, watching the various politicians play a Monopoly-like game called Diplomacy at one point is amusing, and watching the Secretary of Defense squirm as he realizes the situation he’s in are all great fun. The movie is at its weakest when it resorts to slapstick, but these are all momentary lapses, and the movie quickly returns to humor based on satire and character. Half a decade later, Sellers would return to the comic theme of nuclear destruction (once again in multiple roles) in DR. STRANGELOVE. The movie also features the great character actor Leo McKern as well as the first Doctor Who himself, William Hartnell.

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