Sundance 2023: The Amazing Maurice

Directed by:  Toby Genkel & Florian Westermann
Distributed by: Viva Pictures

Written by Patrick Hao


“The Amazing Maurice” seems to be a remnant of the last wave of animated films made popular by “Shrek” and the 2000s Dreamworks aesthetic which makes sense since the screenwriter of this film, Terry Rosio, was one of the screenwriters of “Shrek.” Like “Shrek,” “The Amazing Maurice” is a post-modern riff on folklore, this time the story of the Pied Piper, filled with characters winking at its audience. All is to say that “The Amazing Maurice” feels dated in those ways, with any interesting aspect coming from the source material by Terry Pratchett. 

The film opens with the classic character from the movie telling us the story from a storybook, except this time, the storyteller, Malicia (voiced by Emilia Clarke), knows she is telling a story for a movie. And like “Deadpool” she will not stop mentioning that she knows the movie tropes throughout the film. The central story follows Maurice (voiced by Hugh Laurie), a talking ginger cat who has devised a scheme. He goes around from town to town with his gang of talking rodents warning about his cohort of rodents. He convinces the town to hire the Piper Keith (voiced by Himseh Patel), another co-conspirator. The plan has been a success for them, until, amusingly, the rats, led by Dangerous Beans (voiced by David Tennant), begin feeling an unease in their moral code about what they are doing. They promise to do one last con. However, it becomes more than they bargain for as there seems to be an actual problem with food disappearing. There they meet Malicia, the mayor’s daughter, who assists them on discovering how the big bad of the town Boss Man (voiced by David Thewlis) is connected. 

With such imaginative plot, it is quite underwhelming for the film to feel so lazy, from the animation to the rote screenwriting. The film relies on its garish overlit CGI animation to attempt to keep their assumed youngish viewers occupied. All of this completely lets down its very game cast who are working with what makes them successful. Laurie is in complete House M.D. mode with his wry sarcasm on full display. Yet, despite being the titled character, Maurice is often an afterthought to the hero’s journey Keith is on, as well as his budding romance with Malicia. 

But, the most interesting elements, the particular Pratchett notion of rats dealing with their morality. Even death is entrenched in the plot. But, all of these weird and interesting elements are disregarded for what feels in execution like a fake movie made to autoplay on YouTube after the main video ends. Pratchett simply deserves better than an adaptation like this. 

Maybe the movie would have fared better if it was not so smug. Rather than feeling like it is turning story tropes on its head, it just feels like an attempt to feel smarter than the movies that have come before it. At least “Shrek” was funny. We used to get five of these films a year, but the recent trend has moved away from these ugly spirited animated films. The fact that “The Amazing Maurice” no longer feels the norm should be welcomed. As for “The Amazing Maurice,” let’s drive it out like the rats in the film.

“The Amazing Maurice” Trailer

“The Amazing Maurice” was screened as part of the 2023 edition of the Sundance Film Festival.

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