There’s an international cultural swap that takes place at the start of each year; in the UK, we import a US children’s animation for the lucrative half-term holiday, unusually one that was popular in the States over Thanksgiving. Meanwhile in the US, they import a British family film that opened over Christmas; it’s in this slot that the infamous Paddington 2 made a middling $40 million in the US. This year another hopeful arrives in the form of The Amazing Maurice, a cut-above-the-norm animation based on the works of British writer Terry Pratchett.
The late Pratchett remains one of Britain’s most beloved fantasy authors, something of a link between Douglas Adams and JK Rowling, but very much his own thing. Attempts to film his work have struggled to catch his unique tone, but The Amazing Maurice wisely zeroes on one of his most accessible texts, and hits the spot more often than not. Voiced by Hugh Laurie, Maurice is a sly cat who is working a fake news scam; together with some talking rats, they infest a local neighbourhood, then organise a financial tribute to an ersatz pied piper called Keith (Himesh Patel) to take the rats away. This Skin Game scam does them proud for a while, but the authorities are soon onto them, and the intervention of the dreaded Rat King puts them all in grave danger…
The Amazing Maurice, like the titular character, is a class act; there’s no fart jokes, no grating pop culture references or inappropriate tunes, just Pratchett’s agreeably caustic view of society, filtered through the script by Terry Rossio and the vision of director Toby Genkel. This is an ideal movie for kids transitioning from stories about animals to people; there’s a whole meta sub-narrative involving Emilia Clarke as the bookish Malicia, who constantly points out the difference between storybook narratives and the real thing. ‘In fairly tales, when they get hurt, it’s just a word…’ one character complains, while Malacia complains of tales with ‘no subtext and no social commentary.’
While Pratchett remains under-served away from the printed page, The Amazing Maurice should please fans, with an avuncular cameo from the signature character of Death (‘Busy day?’ he enquires in an ideal voice that can only be Peter Serafinowicz), and a positive ending in which ‘people and animals CAN live in harmony’. But it should also be noted that this story does have an edge; the business of rat coursing is rather disturbing to see. This isn’t the kind of happy-happy-joy-joy story which has no fatalities; six chatty rats are killed in a matter of seconds in one scene that might upset tiny kids. The Amazing Maurice is one of the better attempts so far to capture the zesty tone of Pratchett’s work, turning storybook clichés inside out in a way that should appeal to inquiring minds, and providing a stimulating enough story for children of all ages.
The Amazing Maurice hits US theatres Feb 3 2023. Thanks to Viva for advance access.
Not sold on the trailer and still too many worthy films clocking in at a bum-sagging 150 minutes to see.
I consider myself to have never really grown up, so any animated kids film could be of interest. However, this one sounds a little too “edgy” for me. My condolences to the chatty rats.
Sensitive souls like us should steer clear; I can’t have the death of a single animated rat on my conscience…
Any chance of a review of Cat Ballou? That was one of my father’s favourite movies. Also Cat People, both the original and the remake please. Was Mike Myers ever better than as The Cat in the Hat? You judge! I’m sure I recommended Fritz the Cat to you before, and a review of that would fit with your animation theme. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was a watered down version of the play, but still worth a look. The Cat and the Canary was filmed several times, all worth checking out. The Black Cat — Lugosi and Karloff together, ’nuff said. Cat Woman of the Moon would be fun content. The Cat o’ Nine Tails was a decent giallo, if I remember correctly. Don’t miss That Darn Cat!
Sigh. Look, you requested Aristocats! You could have gone for Old Yeller, or 101 Dalmatians, or All a dogs Go To Heaven, but no, pussycats were what you wanted and pussycats are what you got! And the hole in your argument is that the 1978 version of Cat and the Canary is pretty awful. No more Migiwa if you can’t handle it, Bunty. Have some Tinto Brass on its way…
The Internet demands a constant stream of new content. You have to feed the beast. Just trying to help you out.
How about The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing? I was so upset when I realized that it didn’t actually have any dancing cats in it.
Whhhaattt! Is Cat Dancing a person then?
What about Cat on a Hot Tin Roof? Top Cat? Top Cat Returns?
sigh OK, I wasn’t going to mention him but you can break out your purple vest and do your Top Cat thing.
It’s all on Wikipedia! I am a world authority to TC and the gang!
I like this animated cat theme week you’ve got going on….
Well, The Aristocats is an oldie, but yes, there seems to be a lot of cat action around…we’re just getting Puss in Boots here, so we’re cat swapping you Amazing Maurice, which came out here when Puss did in the US. My theory stands…
And all this time I thought there were no cats in America and the streets were made of cheese…….
I don’t know what it says about me that I immediately recognised this from American Tail…
I don’t know what it says about me that all these cat movies made me think of a decades old movie about mice!
It’s almost as if cats and mice have a connection…
So you are having a at-film-fest, I am approving. I will see this movie when it streams. It has a lot to live up to, rinky tink.
Three cats in the last six films, it’s a cat-astrophe! hahahah
Sigh. I’m trying to amuse. Failing miserably, so it seems.
Do not worry. You are always amusing.
I hope this does well, because I think that animation is about the only way to go to really get Pratchett’s vision onto the screen. None of the movies I’ve seen have worked, they’ve all been flops imo. Not for lack of trying, but the humor just doesn’t translate well off the page…
concur, they lack the energy of Pt’s works, leave out the best stuff, and keep all the worst jokes.
What I’ve seen on screen based on Pratchett is exactly as you suggest, and live action isn’t great for capturing his tone. This has moments that get it right…
I also don’t like the looks of the animation style, based off the poster.
Also Maurice’s look offends me particularly.
Too many teeth. And also agree, the animation is too Selik-y for me…
Circling back to this. Completely agree, yet to see anything on screen that lived up to his prose. This is probably the best Pratchett adaptation I’m aware of, and getting Death right is a big step forwards.
I’m not a child of any age, so nope.
Did you know Kevin Sorbo is in the new Left Behind movie? If that doesn’t get you I don’t know what will.
You are a child for sure IMHO. These teeth marks in the library copy of Bolero and Ghost Don’t Do It tell another story…
You have killed my interest in the next Left Behind movie, which was minimal at best…
I would have thought that would have actually sparked some interest on your part. I mean, now they’re being culturally diverse by letting Hercules be Left Behind too.
I thought that was a Red Card word offense? Did the rules change?
I make the rules, Bunty.