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The creators of ‘The Amazing Maurice’ did their homework

Courtesy of IMDb

By Kate Norrish

Staff Writer

After comedic fantasy author Terry Pratchett’s death and an insultingly bad adaptation of one of his other books, fans were concerned about how the recent film adaptation of “The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents” - released December 2022 in the UK and Feb. 3 in the U.S. - would turn out.

The story, adapted from an installment of the long-running “Discworld” book series, focuses on magically-gifted Maurice the cat and a group of similarly enchanted rats, as well as a teen boy who all make a living by grifting towns, and then having people pay the boy to pretend to be The Pied Piper before moving on to the next town. This becomes complicated when they enter a town full of rat catchers causing a famine by hoarding food.

Despite obvious efforts to gear the film more toward children and a mainstream audience - as Pratchett’s stories tend to include things not seen in mainstream movies, such as platonic male-female relationships - it was made with an extreme respect toward Pratchett’s memory. It included the message “GNU Terry Pratchett,” at the end, which is viewed by fans as a ‘Rest in Peace’ message, and cameos from other characters that fans will appreciate.

While Pratchett’s dry humor is definitely present, there was obviously difficulty translating it from a novel to a visual medium. Verbal jokes will almost always get a laugh, but the visual comedy is often a hit or a miss.

Additionally, around halfway through the film, the characters receive help from Malicia, a girl constantly discussing the events of the plot by comparing them to common book tropes. In the novel, her comments are combined with enough description to be interesting, but, as there is far less of that in a movie, her constantly talking about book tropes comes across as repetitive and annoying.

I also took issue with the amount of action in the film. Pratchett, despite having assassins and policemen as fan-favorite characters, rarely writes fight scenes, and the ones included in this film seem to be trying to be funny when they are inappropriate.

Despite this, the film’s themes are incredibly complex and nuanced for a children’s film. The rats’ newfound intelligence, rather than being immediately accepted by them, becomes a major source of stress, and they end up using a children’s book featuring talking animals as a holy book to cope.

Occasionally, the film will switch from CGI to Beatrix Potter-style hand animation to show the contents of the picture book, which parallels the development of the other characters. While I would have preferred to see hand animation throughout, these scenes are beautifully done, and the creators clearly have a limited budget that they are making the most of.

The climax and resolution to the story are also unique and poignant, allowing for some creative and creepy imagery. Yet it can also be funny at times, creating an interesting mood. Moments like that, as well as several other scenes that may disturb, yet fascinate younger children, really make the film.

Check it out if you enjoy Pratchett, children’s media, or just need an odd viewing experience. GNU Terry Pratchett.

B: A serviceable tribute to a great author



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