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Sundance 2023 Review: The Amazing Maurice – “The family will have a good time”

A travelling conniving talking cat partners with intelligent rats and a pied piping human to con townspeople into paying them to get rid of a rodent infestation of their own creation.

In this adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, a narrator presents herself to the audience surrounded by books and with such a love for faerie tales that she points out all of the plot points and devices along the way including such things as foreshadowing.  Amongst the storytelling is an overweight talking feline with quite the appetite for gold coins, smart conversing rats with dreams of reaching a promised land of their own, and an orphaned human boy with a talent for playing music.  The trio of cat, rats and humans band together to swindle money from townspeople which goes along perfectly until they reach a particular town where food mysteriously disappears and there are no signs of rats.

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The storytelling is as self-aware as the characters which means that tropes as associated with faerie tales get played to the hilt and for comedic effect.  The narrator named Malicia has an overeager enthusiasm that Emilia Clark relishes while Maurice serves as a laidback and smug counterpart which is quite fitting for Hugh Laurie.  In fact, you cannot fault the vocal performance of the cast, which also features David Thewlis, Himesh Patel, Gemma Arterton, Joe Sugg, Ariyon Bakare, Julie Atherton, Rob Brydon, Hugh Bonneville and David Tennant.  It is clever using different animation styles with interludes making use of an illustrative style while the main story is computer generated in a soft fur manner so to make the rats more appealing.

A unique spin is given to the antagonist which is appropriate thematically and has a dark undertone that is really creepy.  However, the trouble with continually playing the same meta joke over and over gain is that can get rather one note after awhile.  There are elements of danger as peril has to exist to compel the narrative and audience forward but the edge has been blunted somewhat to make it more palatable to young children.  Overall, the family will have a good time which is what matters in the end.

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19–29, 2023, in person and online, and for more information visit sundance.org.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.

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