Children’s books make for good animated films. Whether it be Dr. Seuss’s stories or Peter Rabbit, many children’s books have been turned into animated films over the years. The Amazing Maurice is based on the book by Terry Pratchett. The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents. The director’s Toby Genkel and Florian Westermann do a solid job adapting this book into a movie. It was a fun adventure to get drawn into.
It’s an animated film featuring a talking cat Maurice, the title character, (Hugh Laurie) He is a sly cat who likes to use his rat friends and his human friend Kieth (Hamish Patel) to do scams and cons to make a quick buck. Until his friends start to come under attack from the Bossman (David Thewlis) and his henchmen. In Bad Blents all the food is disappearing which causes famine so the Mayor (Hugh Bonneville) asks Maurice and his friends to figure out what’s going on. Maurice needs to piece together how the disappearing food ties into his rat friends being under attack. He ends up getting some unwanted help from the Mayor’s daughter Malicia (Emilia Clarke)
Emilia Clarke is also the unreliable narrator of the film. She uses the sacred book as her means to tell the story. You could call it a MacGuffin I guess. She tells the story with a framing device. A framing device is a tool a lot of filmmakers use to help tell the story within said movie. In the case of this film, Clarke’s character is a big part of the narrative so having her as the narrator makes a lot of sense. She is a fun character and tells the story in a fun and entertaining way. She’s not the only interesting character in the movie though.
The cast is full of fantastic character actors besides Laurie, Bonneville, Clarke, and Thewlis. The rats are played by Dangerous Beans (David Tenant), Peaches (Gemma Arterton), and Sardines (Joe Sugg). They are all terrific in their various roles. Their story is tied to the rest of the film but they have a flashback sequence that shows how they get to talk which is a fascinating story regarding trash and chemicals. Maurice’s ability to talk is tied to this incident as well. Part of the charm of the movie is all these terrific actors who voice these animatronic animals. It’s a who’s who of British acting stars these days.
This animated film isn’t a musical like a lot of them are but it has one memorable musical number called “Rats” sung by of course the rat co-stars of the movie. It’s a cute good sounding little song that gets the movie started nicely. Mostly there are a few subplots that deviate from the main story but all come together in the end. That’s part of the problem with the movie. It doesn’t have an identity of its own. It doesn’t know what it wants to be a kids’ animated film or a slick animated film with adult themes that kids can’t understand. It’s more for an older audience than for little kids.
One of the best parts about this movie is the animation. It has a mix of different kinds of styles within the context of one movie and that was pretty cool. The people had their own style and the animals had an altogether different style from the way the humans were animated. The strength of the film is its animation along with the stellar voice-over cast. The vivid color palette lent itself nicely to this fantastic mix of animation styles. Everything jumped off the screen on my screener. It’s hard to make the animation look different but this movie had a few tricks to make it look good.
The Amazing Maurice is a mixed bag. It has multiple beautiful animation styles crammed into one film. The voice over cast is filled with British legends who are all fantastic in their various roles whether they be human or animal. The problem with this movie is it doesn’t know if it wants to be a kids film or more sophisticated animated movie for more of an adult audience. Also there are multiple plotlines that all go in different directions but eventually come together in the end. It’s hard to focus though on any one storyline or plot point. That’s the one aspect I wasn’t happy with. Hopefully audiences won’t be confused by all the stuff going on in this overstuffed animated film.
Dan Skip Allen