To save her family, a mouse must get help from a secret group of superintelligent rats.
The peril can be intense for younger viewers, as Mrs. Brisby faces a ferocious cat, a huge tractor, an owl, and a giant spider. A villainous plot to trigger a fatal accident succeeds, killing a major character. Blood is drawn in a sword duel. At the climax the children are nearly drowned in mud. There are unpleasant scenes of scientific animal testing.
For fans of animation, not fans of the book
Director Don Bluth, a former animator at Disney (The Rescuers, Pete’s Dragon), was more interested in exceeding his former employer’s declining standards in hand-drawn animation (this was seven years before The Little Mermaid) than in maintaining fidelity to the original novel, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. Bluth downplayed the science, and added new elements of magic and comic relief (courtesy of Dom DeLuise). But watching the film you can feel the passion of the animators—working long hours for deferred payment, and in some cases mortgaging their homes—in the lushness of the visuals, motion, and lighting effects. An underwater descent in a glass elevator offers a glimpse of Bluth as the closest America got to having its own Hayao Miyazaki. —