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Mouse Hunt
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGore Verbinski
Written byAdam Rifkin
Produced by
CinematographyPhedon Papamichael
Edited byCraig Wood
Music byAlan Silvestri
Distributed byDreamWorks Pictures[1]
Release date
  • December 19, 1997 (1997-12-19) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$38 million[2]
Box office$125.4 million

Mouse Hunt is a 1997 American slapstick black comedy film written by Adam Rifkin and directed by Gore Verbinski in his feature film directorial debut. It stars Nathan Lane, Lee Evans, Maury Chaykin, and Christopher Walken. The film follows two Laurel and Hardy-like brothers in their struggle against one small but crafty house mouse for possession of a mansion which was willed to them by their father. While the film is set in the late 20th century, styles range humorously from the 1940s to the 1990s. It was the first family film to be released by DreamWorks Pictures, who released it in the United States on December 19, 1997, to mixed reviews, but was a commercial success.

This was one of William Hickey's final roles before he died, and the film was dedicated in memory of him.


When the once-wealthy string magnate Rudolf Smuntz dies, he leaves his factory and an abandoned Victorian mansion to his two sons; the dutiful and optimistic Lars, and venal cynic Ernie, who has ignored the family business to become a chef; he walks out of the reading of their father's will, taking a box of cigars. At Ernie's restaurant, a cockroach crawls out of the box of cigars and into a dish prepared for the mayor, causing him to have a fatal heart attack when he accidentally bites into it. Ernie's restaurant is shut down and he becomes homeless. Meanwhile, a cord company called Zeppco International offers Lars a buyout for the string factory, but he remembers he promised his father to never sell it, and refuses. Lars' gold digger wife April furiously kicks him out. With nowhere else to go, the brothers spend the night in the mansion.

The brothers cannot sleep due to noises caused by a mouse, and while investigating find blueprints of the property. The blueprints reveal the mansion was the final design of a famous architect, Charles Lyle LaRue, and it would be worth a fortune if restored. The brothers decide to renovate and auction the mansion to recover their lives. Ernie, fearing a repeat of the cockroach incident, convinces Lars they must also get rid of the mouse. Conventional methods fail when the mouse demonstrates itself to be exceptionally intelligent. The brothers resort to extreme measures to remove the mouse, including buying a monstrous Maine Coon cat named "Catzilla" and hiring an eccentric exterminator named Caesar; the mouse drops Catzilla to his death in a dumbwaiter, and drags Caesar through the mansion using his truck's winch line.

Ernie had borrowed against the mansion's mortgage to help pay for the renovations, and the bank informs them they will be evicted in two days unless they reimburse the money. With their limited funds the brothers cannot pay their workers, causing them to go on strike. Ernie finds Zeppco's business card and arranges a meeting to secretly accept their buyout offer. Lars goes to the factory to manufacture enough string to pay off the mortgage and is met by April, who has learned of the mansion's value and takes Lars back, giving him the funds they need. Ernie's meeting with Zeppco's representatives goes awry when he attempts to impress some women and is hit by a bus. The brothers return to the mansion and find it surrounded by emergency personnel, who received a mysterious 911 call of Caesar screaming from inside a trunk.

The brothers chase the mouse with a shotgun and accidentally ignite a bug bomb Caesar had dropped, blowing a massive hole in the floor. Lars overhears Zeppco on the answering machine, revealing Ernie's plans, and the two argue with the mouse watching. When Lars throws an orange at Ernie, he ducks and the mouse is struck and stunned, but is still alive. The brothers cannot bring themselves to kill it and mail it in a box addressed to Fidel Castro. The brothers reconcile and finish their renovations. The night of the auction Lars discovers the postal box returned to the mansion and a hole chewed in it, while Ernie sees the mouse on his podium as he speaks to the auctioneers. As the auction begins, the brothers try flushing the mouse out with a garden hose, filling an inner wall of the mansion with water until it bursts, washing the auctioneers out and causing the mansion to collapse. April leaves with a wealthy bidder and the brothers are left with nothing, but take solace that the mouse was surely killed in the collapse.

The brothers spend the night in the factory, unaware the mouse has survived and followed them. Seeing their sorry state, the mouse takes pity on them and activates the factory's machinery, dropping a block of cheese into the wax boiler to produce a ball of string cheese. Inspired, the brothers renovate the factory to produce string cheese and other cheese-based products. Lars runs the factory with Ernie as his chef, and the mouse as their taste-tester for new cheese combinations.



Mouse Hunt was released in North America on December 19, 1997 and opened in the #4 spot.[2] The film was released in the United Kingdom on April 3, 1998, and opened at #2, behind Titanic.[3][4]

Home media

Mouse Hunt was released on VHS on May 5, 1998,[5] and DVD on December 8, 1998, by DreamWorks Home Entertainment.[6] It was released on Blu-ray on February 2, 2021, by Paramount Home Entertainment.[7]


Box office

The film was a box office success, partially due to releasing during the Christmas and New Year's period. It grossed $6,062,922 in its opening weekend, averaging $2,817 from 2,152 theaters. In its second weekend, it stayed at #4 and increased by 60 percent, making $9,702,770, averaging $4,428 from 2,191 theaters, and bringing its 10-day gross to $21,505,569. In its third weekend, it once again stayed at #4 and dropped by only 13 percent, making $8,418,001, averaging $3,804 from 2,213 theaters, and bringing its 17-day gross to $40,021,527.[2] 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.

Critical response

Mouse Hunt received mixed reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reports that 44% of 33 critics had given the film a positive review. The critics consensus reads: "Mouse Hunt gets trapped under the weight of its excessive slapstick antics."[8] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100 based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[9] 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."[10] His colleague Gene Siskel disagreed and liked the film.[11]

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."[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Mouse Hunt (1997)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 9 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c "Mouse Hunt (1997) - Weekend Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ "Weekend box office 3rd April 1998 - 5th April 1998". Retrieved 10 September 2017.
  4. ^ "Mousehunt". Retrieved 2021-01-19.
  5. ^ "'Boogie Nights' comes to video". The Kansas City Star. April 3, 1998. p. 82. Archived from the original on April 8, 2023. Retrieved April 8, 2023 – via Open access icon
  6. ^ "Mousehunt". Retrieved 2021-01-19.
  7. ^ "Mouse Hunt". Retrieved 2021-01-19.
  8. ^ "Mouse Hunt (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2023-01-20.
  9. ^ "Mousehunt Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 20, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (December 19, 1997). "Mouse Hunt Movie Review & Film Summary (1997)".
  11. ^ "Mouse Hunt". Siskel & Ebert. Season 12. Episode 16. December 20, 1997. ABC.