Mousehunt is a 1997 American dark comedy slapstick film directed by Gore Verbinski, written by Adam Rifkin and starring Nathan Lane and Lee Evans, and featured William Hickey, who died shortly after the film was shot. It was the first family film to be released by DreamWorks Pictures.
When once wealthy string magnate Rudolf Smuntz dies, he leaves his somewhat outdated factory and run-down house to his sons Ernie (Nathan Lane) and Lars (Lee Evans). Lars refuses to sell the factory and has a falling out with his money-hungry wife. Ernie opens his own restaurant and serves Mayor McKrinkle, but little does he know that a cockroach (from one of Rudolf's old boxes of cigars) makes its way into the mayor's dish. This result in him having two heart attacks, the last one being fatal. The restaurant is closed down by the Board of Health, and the brothers reunite and find solace in their father's run-down mansion.
After finding the blueprints they discover that the mansion is indeed a lost masterpiece designed by famous architect Charles Lyle LaRue, and could sell for a colossal fortune if properly restored. Ernie and Lars turn down an offer by a multi-millionaire LaRue collector believing they can make a larger profit via charity auction. Upon restoring the house the brothers discover that it is inhabited by a rather pesky and crafty mouse, remembering the restaurant incident Ernie vows to rid the house of any unwanted vermin.
After a single mousetrap fails, the brothers resort to awkward gimmicks to get rid of the mouse. This in the process damages the house even more, lessening its value. To make matters worse they face foreclosure unless they can pay the bank $1,200 an overdue mortgage payment. They try to make the money real quick by withholding the factory workers' pay, this backfires and instead the angry workers go on strike. Desperate, Lars tries to run the factory all by himself but in the process of making string he ends up getting his clothes caught in the machine and they rip to shreds. Afterwards he is encountered by his wife April, who learns of the auction and the brothers' attempt to get rich.
The brothers then purchase a monstrous looking cat by the name of Catzilla to rid the house of the mouse once and for all. Unfortunately, the mouse is clever and smarter than the somewhat old and ferocious cat. Destroying everything in the process the mouse tricks the cat into the dumbwaiter and lowers him to his ultimate demise. They then hire an eccentric exterminator, who is quickly outwitted by the mouse when he attaches him to the wench of his own truck dragging him through the floorboards. Ernie then goes behind Lars' back and tries to sell the factory to Zeppco, but his meeting is thwarted when he is hit by a bus while flirting with two Belgian hair models.
Ernie is later admitted into the hospital, and is accompanied by the hair models and Lars who is wearing April's pink overcoat and informs him that she has given them the $1,200. After getting home and witnessing the damage caused by Catzilla and the exterminator Ernie chases the mouse up the chimney and gets stuck. Lars attempts to light a match, but the mouse causes a gas leak that sends Ernie flying into the lake and severely burning Lars' face. Ernie driven to the brink of insanity grabs the shotgun and starts shooting at the mouse, but accidentally shoots a pesticide grenade left by the exterminator. This results in blowing a hole through the floor. The brothers then get into an argument when Lars learns that Ernie tried to sell the factory behind his back, Angry Lars throws an orange at Ernie but it misses and instead hits the mouse.
Rendering him unconscious, the brothers can not bring themselves to finish him off. So they ship him to Fidel Castro in Cuba as they prepare for the auction. However, their victory is short-lived when they discover that the package was returned to sender. Panicking they then attempt to flush the mouse out, but Lars accidentally breaks the knob on the hose causing it to flood the house. The house then collapses due to the water damage, and April finally leaves Lars once and for all. Presuming the mouse is dead the brothers then find their father's lucky string and are disappointed as they pull it in half.
With nowhere to go, they return to the factory with only a single chunk of cheese for food. Having survived his apparent death, the mouse follows them and restarts the factory. Feeding the cheese into the machine, and inventing string cheese. Ernie and Lars then end their war with the mouse, and decide to rebuild the factory as a novelty string cheese factory. Lars has begun a relationship with one of the Belgian hair models, Hilde, and Ernie puts his culinary skill to work in developing new cheese flavors with the mouse as his personal taste tester.
The film ends with the "lucky string" being shown placed in a wall next to Rudolf's portrait with a inscription of his motto: "A world without string is Chaos.".
* Nathan Lane as Ernie Smuntz
* Lee Evans as Lars Smuntz
* Vicki Lewis as April Smuntz
* Maury Chaykin as Alexander Falko
* Eric Christmas as Ernie and Lars' lawyer
* Michael Jeter as Quincy Thorpe
* Debra Christofferson as Ingrid
* Camilla Søeberg as Hilde
* Ian Abercrombie as auctioneer
* Annabelle Gurwitch as Roxanne Atkins
* Eric Poppick as Theodore Plumb, the banker
* Ernie Sabella as Maury, the cat pound owner
* William Hickey as Rudolf Smuntz (this was Hickey's last film before his death)
* Christopher Walken as Caesar the Exterminator
* Cliff Emmich as Mayor McKrinkle
* Thom Barry as Doctor (uncredited, deleted scenes)
* Frank Welker as Mouse, Catzilla (voice)
MouseHunt received mixed reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 42% of 31 critics had given the film a positive review. Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale. Roger Ebert gave the film two stars, calling it "not very funny, and maybe couldn't have been very funny no matter what, because the pieces for comedy are not in place... A comedy that hasn't assigned sympathy to some characters and made others hateful cannot expect to get many laughs, because the audience doesn't know who to laugh at, or with."
Regarding the digital special effects, Ebert deemed the film "an excellent example of the way modern advances in special effects can sabotage a picture (Titanic is an example of effects being used wisely). Because it is possible to make a movie in which the mouse can do all sorts of clever things, the filmmakers have assumed incorrectly that it would be funny to see the mouse doing them."
Nonetheless, the film was a financial success. It was released on December 19, 1997, and opened up in North America at #4 and grossed $6,062,922 in its opening weekend, averaging about $2,817 from 2,152 theaters. In its second weekend, it stayed at #4 and increased by 60 percent, making $9,702,770, averaging about $4,428 from 2,191 theaters, and bringing its ten day gross to $21,505,569. It closed on July 1, 1998, with a final gross of $61,917,389 in the North American market and $60,500,000 in other territories for a worldwide total of $122,417,389. Its budget was $38 million. The film was released in the United Kingdom on April 3, 1998, and opened on #2, behind Titanic