Peter Sellers was a comic genius, there was just something about his delivery which made him funny without really doing anything and Sellers who does an Alec Guinness by playing multiple characters is one of the reasons why 50's comedy "The Mouse That Roared" is so much fun. But the biggest reason why "The Mouse That Roared" is funny is because of the initial idea, a financially crippled country declares war on America so they can lose and then claim Aid. It is so simple it is hilarious but of course that is not all there is to this 50 year old movie and whilst what follows from the initial set up is fun it does seem a little stereotypical, chaos, romance and a happy ever after ending.
Grand Fenwick is a small country in Europe whose only export is their wine to America, but when a Californian company starts imitating their wine the country ends up bankrupt. Desperate Prime Minister Count Rupert of Mountjoy (Peter Sellers - The Ladykillers) persuades the Grand Duchess Gloriana XII (Peter Sellers) that they should declare war on America with the goal of losing so that they can then get financial Aid. And so Tully Bascombe (Peter Sellers) and the small Fenwick army of archers head to America to lose, except when they arrive their they find New York deserted as an air raid test is taking place and end up kidnapping scientist Doctor Alfred Kokintz (David Kossoff), his daughter Helen (Jean Seberg - Airport) and the super bomb he has invented, taking them and a bunch of American Generals back to Fenwick with them.
Whilst the introduction to "The Mouse That Roared" is amusing as we see Peter Sellers playing 3 characters, one of which being the Grand Duchess of Fenwick it is not that original. It feels very much like Sellers trying to do an Alec Guinness by playing multiple characters and whilst he does it it still feels a little unoriginal. But then you get the amusing idea as the PM wants to declare war just so that they can lose and get Aid in order to help the bankrupt county out. It is daft but such a simply amusing idea especially having already witnessed the Fenwick army as a small group of chain mail wearing archers.
The trouble for me is that whilst this set up is amusing what follows is often either too obvious or too telegraphed. When we witness Doctor Kokintz and his daughter working on the American Football shaped super bomb you know two things will happen, one there will be a scene where the bomb gets thrown like a football and secondly his daughter Helen will end up falling for the clumsy Tully. In fact before that when the Fenwick army arrive in New York in their chain mail you also can guess they will be mistaken for something else and so when someone says they are from Mars it is funny but obvious. And that is my problem because after an amusing, original idea what follows is for the most predictable, still good fun but it lacks the creativity of that initial idea.
Despite this "The Mouse That Roared" is entertaining and much of that is down to Peter Sellers who plays the Grand Duchess, Prime Minister and also Tully the slightly inept head of the army. As already mentioned Sellers doesn't have to do much because he has this natural sense of funny, a look, a pause, a matter of fact way of saying something and because of this even some of the more obvious gags end up funny. Sellers is not alone and whilst Jean Seberg is underused as Helen, William Hartnell delivers plenty of humour as Tully's right hand man Will Buckley.
What this all boils down to is that "The Mouse That Roared" is a fun movie which thanks to a fun idea ends up funnier than it is. But whilst much of the humour ends up obvious and telegraphed the comic talent of Peter Sellers makes it work.