("When your heart breaks, it can grow back crooked"), about stereotyping ("A rat is a rat. It doesn't really matter where you came from") and how "a single act of forgiveness can change everything."

All these lessons and characters and story threads and settings ("Mouseworld" and "Ratworld") mean that there's precious little space in Despereaux's tale for heroism (save for the third act) and humor.

Still, children may take to this or that character or its gentle "Tell me a story" style if they can sit still long enough waiting for something - anything - interesting to happen. *

Produced by Gary Ross, Allison Thomas, directed by Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen, written by Kate DiCamillo, Gary Ross, music by William Ross, distributed by Universal Pictures.