Movie review: 'The Amazing Maurice' (2022)
The Amazing Maurice (trailer) is a 93-minute UK-Germany computer-animated film released in late 2022. Directed by Toby Genkel and Florian Westermann, the screenplay by Terry Rossio (Shrek, and many others) is an adaptation of the 2001 children's fantasy novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.
"One day, when he was naughty, Mr. Bunnsy looked over the hedge into Farmer Fred's field and it was full of green lettuces. Mr. Bunnsy, however, was not full of lettuces. This did not seem fair."
-- from Mr. Bunnsy has an Adventure
Set in Pratchett's Discworld comedic fantasy universe, The Amazing Maurice is the story of a cat (Maurice, voiced by Hugh Laurie) and a group of rats who have acquired speech and intelligence. Together they travel from town to town with a young human musician named Keith, running a pied piper scam. Maurice wants them to make as much money as possible, but the rats would like to move on and find a place where they can live in peace and harmony, finding inspiration in their revered text, Mr. Bunnsy has an Adventure.
Upon reaching the town of Bad Blintz, however, something is wrong. Not only are they up against other rat-catchers, but the local rats appear to be missing, along with most of the town's food. To solve the mystery of the famine and the missing rats, Maurice, Keith (Himesh Patel) and the intelligent rats are joined by the mayor's goth daughter, Malicia (Emilia Clarke).
This is an ok film. IMDB rates it 6.2 out of 10, while Rotten Tomatoes gives it 73% / 68%. It's not a bad film, it's just... missing some kind of spark to push it higher. Which is odd, because the original work, animation and voice acting are all good.
Personally, I disliked Maurice's physical design - I wasn't big on the huge number of teeth, his round head and dinky little paws. It was also difficult to find a sympathetic protagonist. Maurice is a well-meaning jerk, Keith is clumsy and dull, and Malicia is just annoying. An expert on fairy tale tropes, she's obsessed with guessing the story narrative at every moment. Problem is, she's frequently wrong, and because she thinks she's right, she's smug.
What I really enjoyed in this film was the light humor, a chicken that randomly shows up, and the rats. The main rat characters are their spiritual leader, Dangerous Beans (David Tennant); the Heart of the group, Peaches (Gemma Arterton); the trap expert and strategist, Darktan (Ariyon Bakare); and the theatrical Sardines (Joe Sugg). If you're familiar with the book, you'll notice the absence of their original leader (Hamnpork) - the leadership issue has been dropped, and most of his attributes have been moved into Darktan. The mechanical wind-up toy rat they use to test traps, Mr. Clicky, now has some kind of sentience.
There are a number of cosmetic changes between the book and the movie. Most of these are small. Larger differences manifest in the second half of the movie - most notably, Keith and Malicia leave the town to seek out the actual pied piper of legend. The ultimate antagonist, who I can't discuss without spoilers, is also handled differently in the movie. It's about a 75% to 80% respectful adaptation that's been done fairly well.
Another difference is that the film breaks the fourth wall a lot. This is how we first meet Malicia, as an introductory narrator, long before she enters the main story. It's mostly fine, except when the main story Malicia and Keith leave town, suddenly it cuts back to narrator Malicia in her bedroom at home. This felt jarring, since I was already confused by the film departing from the book's narrative at that point.
Overall, I'd recommend this film to Discworld fans, and to furry fans who like rodents. It's a decent film for families with kids, just don't expect anything too deep, and there are a couple of dark moments. No worries, everything works out in the end! Otherwise I wouldn't say this is a must-see. It should be available on Hulu, Vulu, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video.
The books they are based on
If you're looking for something new to read (or audiobooks to listen to!) the Discworld books are very entertaining. What Douglas Adams did for science fiction with The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Terry Pratchett did for fantasy literature, poking fun at fantasy tropes while also satirizing aspects of modern society. He was so popular, he was knighted! Sadly, Sir Terry passed away in 2015, but earlier this month the Royal Mail issued a series of postage stamps dedicated to his work.
There are, however, a lot of Discworld books, 41 in total, with continuity and dozens of characters. Good news - you don't need to read them all to be able to follow along! They're very approachable. I would recommend starting with the first book, The Colour of Magic (1983). The writing style was still figuring itself out, but it sets up the feeling of the story universe.
After that, take a look at The Discworld Reading Order Guide, which shows the main clusters. Try out the first book in a cluster, and if you like it, keep going! I completely disregarded some clusters, everything else still made sense, and I never felt like I was missing out. The Amazing Maurice is a bit unusual - it's more stand-alone than the other books, and it's aimed at a much younger audience. The main clusters are:
- Rincewind: The adventures of a cowardly, incompetent wizard. (I skipped most of these.)
I should also mention that the second season of Good Omens recently came out on streaming video. Originally based on a book co-authored by Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Gaiman has been adapting it to video, as well as continuing where their collaborative work left off.
What furry stuff have you watched, read or played recently? Send us a review!