Film Review: The Amazing Maurice And His Educated Rodents

It’s hard to believe after over 50 years and countless TV adaptations that we finally get a Terry Pratchett movie. Discworld movie adaptations have long been touted but they were always going to struggle with approval when you have production studios asking if they can lose the character of Death from the adaptation of Mort because they find the idea of Death depressing. Arguably Sir Terry’s most popular character, any production about Death but without Death would be unthinkable and the Mort movie adaptation was quite rightly shelved.

With the main protagonists of The Amazing Maurice being talking animals a live action film would be unwise. Almost the entire cast would have to be created in CGI and apart from the expense a children’s adaptation using CGI realistic rats in waistcoats wouldn’t really cut it. Quite sensibly then they’ve gone for computer animation.

If there’s anything to complain about then it’s the animation. That’s not to say it’s bad, quite the opposite. The issue is that in much the same way that big blockbuster films created a standard look to movies, Michael Bay has a lot to answer for, so have the big animated movies of the C21st. The animation of Keith and Malicia would not be out of place for a Dreamworks production. That said the animation of Maurice and his rats comes across as fresh and the rodent ensemble is full of individuality with each rat having its own distinct personality.

As a stand-alone animation it holds up really well with a fun engaging story of an unwilling hero rising to the challenge of overcoming his fears. But where it really excels is when it caters to the fans. There are so many Easter Eggs in the show to keep the ardent Pratchett fan engrossed for hours. Or for the particularly zealous fan maybe several days. From the bust of Sir Terry [1] in the mayor’s office to the inclusion of Rincewind and Twoflower [2] in a cameos the little nods here and there are there for the fans. There’s a long tradition in Sir Terry’s books of dropping little references here and there, and the fandom has enjoyed cataloguing every one, no matter how tenuous. No doubt there will be a new Annotated Pratchett File just for the film shortly.

At around 90 minutes long The Amazing Maurice is perfect as an afternoon film to enjoy with the whole family. While there’s a mild horror theme running through the film it’s not enough to scare little ones too much. If anything the book is far scarier and probably not suitable for younger readers, but makes a perfect introduction for those not quite old enough for the Tiffany Aching books. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more adaptations on the way, but given the nature of the books these are unlikely to be full length movies.

[1] The bust on display in the mayor’s office is directly modelled on the bust for sale by the Discworld Emporium.
[2] While the main protagonists may be artistically styled in a more generic animation style the characters of Rincewind and Twoflower take their stylistic clues from long time Discworld artist Paul Kidby [3].
[3] As do other characters that are found throughout the Discworld books, including Death and Death of Rats.

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