Written by: Hannah Tran | December 9th, 2021
Even Mice Belong in Heaven (Jan Bubeníček/Denisa Grimmová, 2021) 2½ out of 4 stars.
In typical Czech style, stop-motion animated film Even Mice Belong in Heaven focuses on much darker themes than those typically seen in the average children’s film. With its whimsical tale of two natural-born enemies, a defiant and stubborn mouse named Whizzy and a timid fox with a stutter named Whitebelly, Even Mice Belong in Heaven follows the young pair as they are forced to navigate the unlikely world of animal heaven together. Although it handles weighty themes of grief, prejudice, and trauma, the simple and sweet writing and adorable visual packaging manages to connect with its target audience, although probably few others.
For a film with such surprisingly dark material, however, the universe that it creates is full of bright and colorful fun. The unique design of the characters and the imaginative stages of heaven are brought to life with playful fabrics and textures that easily distinguish the film’s individual style. Some scenes may occasionally feel oddly static but, much like the film itself, the meticulous construction of its setting always feels new and intriguing.
Despite its complex themes, the sparse story nevertheless gives the impression that it would be better told as a short film. The message it conveys about friendship and understanding, although touching, is much lighter than its plot-driven setup. At times, it feels it accomplishes this message far too early in its runtime. As a result, there are too many sentimental moments that are followed by a meandering pace.
Moreover, all the time the film invests in making the audience care about these characters is equally spent making the audience frustrated with these characters. There are many moments, especially with regard to Whizzy, when it feels as though they regress in their individual arcs; they resort back to cruelty and intentional misinterpretation to the point that they can be hard to root for. The English-language voice acting is merely passable and does little to assuage these narrative flaws. Still, despite the bumpy road to the film’s conclusion, the final moments are appropriately sentimental enough to forgive most of the earlier false steps. Sweet and strange, Even Mice Belong in Heaven is worth watching for its hand-crafted beauty and unorthodox subject matter.