Already I can’t remember if it was Tuesday or Wednesday when I first discovered that Terry Pratchett’s The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents had been adapted as a film via the magic of CGI animation. And here I am, two or three days later, days full of eagerness and anticipation because I have a feeling that that this one might well be good, recovering from the frost outside in Screen 11 of The Light cinema in Stockport, ready.
This is only the third film I have seen all year, which makes this only the third film I have seen since the pandemic first struck, and the first non-superhero film I have seen in god knows how long. It’s also my first time in Screen 11, which turns out to be a mini0-cinema in a side room on the ground floor, five rows of seats only: C6 is halfway from side to side and top to bottom.
It’s the only performance of the day, one for the kids, at 11.10am, and it’s not sold out. In fact I am the last of four tickets sold. The timing takes me back, pleasantly, to December 1966, and my Grannie and Grandad taking me to see the Thunderbirds film at the old and big Odeon in Manchester. Long, long ago.
The 11.10 am kick-off is for the ‘ptogramme’, which means adverts and trailers first, all of which I watch with a stony face. The adverts go on for hours (or seven minutes if I believe my watch) and are almost exclusively for video games (do we still call them video games?), though I cannot help an ironic smile that the last advery is for Neurofen headache tablets. The trailers take even longer and there isn’t a human film among them. It’s not just a flaw in my character which means I only go to watch superhero films.
Just as the Certificate comes up, the last pair take their seats and, glory be, one is a child. Who immediately starts wingeing lodlky about having to sit in the second row when he wanted to ‘go on top’. For the first time in a long life, I was minded to go over there and mahke the calm but firm point that I hadn’t paid to be here, at this hour of the day, to listen to him moan incessantly, but he shut up of his own accord and I did not need to break character (didn’t stop his keep getting up and scrabbling for things in his bag which, for some unaccountable reason, he had placed on the seat three to his right instead of next to him).
The film. At the end, coming out, I couldn’t contain myself. The cleaner had come in to tidy up and I had to tell someone: ‘I don’t care what anyone else says,’ I told him, ‘but out of all the adaptations of Terry Pratchett I’ve seen, this is the first one I’ve seen where they got it.’ The other bloke, who can’t have been more than a decade younger than me, agreed whole-heartedly. The makers of this film got it and how. I giggled all the way through, except for the seriously serious bits, which were beautifuly serious. They got the atmosphere, the charm, the slightly manic off-centre style. The voices were uniformly excellent, the story kept up a constant pace without ever skimping on scenes and there were wonderful visual details everywhere. You had to be aware of the entire screen because if you concentrated on what was going on up front there was so much background stuff you’d miss.
And I don’t just mean Easter Eggs although there was one absolutely gorgeous one in the coda for us true Discworld aficianados.
One thing about which I was slightly dubious at the start was the film building up the part of the Mayor’s daughter, Malicia Grimm, the hyperactive girl intent on forcing life into Story with a capital S. As well as her role in the story, Malicia also appeared as the narrator, lending a touch of metafiction to the whole thing, but enabling background information to be brought out without awkwardness. It took the film across Neil Gaiman terriroty by making the story about Story, but that’s far from inappropriate, and though it felt at first a bit too much like cleverness for cleverness’s sake, it went on to work briliantly. Between Emilia Clarke’s sparky voice and Malicia’s appearance as a very skinny but incredibly cute redhead, I loved it.
Clarke was not the only prominent name voice actor. Hugh Laurie played Maurice himself, and David Tennant was Dangerous Beans, the rat mystic, whilst David Thewlis was his customary impeccable self as the villain, but the best thing was that, with the exception of Thewlis, their voices submerged into their characters. Laurie was Maurice, not Laurie, and Tennant the rat not Tennant and the film so much the better for it. Even with Thewliss, he was so right as the bad guy that your consciousness of hearing the actor never detracted from his performance.
So time just flew. I was never once conscious of wondering hos much there was to go, indeed I would have welcomed another half hour of that without any qualms, but that was being greedy. Part of the film’s strength was keeping it tight. Either way, it’s a gem, the most fun I’ve had in a cinema in years. God knows what the kids will think of it – I didn’t hear the kid laugh once though on his way out he was telling his Gran it was a great film – but Terry Pratchett fans should be flocking to it in the now semi-legendaery droves. I don’t rule out going to see it again next week…