Sundance 2023: ‘The Amazing Maurice’: A Cat and Rat Caper


Still from “The Amazing Maurice.” (Courtesy of Ulysses Films and Cantilever Media and The Sundance Institute)

By Andre Montoya, Arts Writer


From Page To Screen

Based on the book “The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents” by Terry Pratchett and partially inspired by the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale of the “Pied Piper,” “The Amazing Maurice” is a quirky but sensible adaptation of both classic tales.

Maurice the cat and his human companion Keith pretend to be exterminators that always seem to arrive just in time to rid towns of plague rats, provided they receive gold for their services. The reality is they all are in on the con and the rats are simply “actors.” This ruse is all in an effort to reach a promised land, where all intelligent animals can live in harmony together.

Soon this colorful troupe finds themselves in Bad Blintz, a town with a larger conspiracy than they had imagined. After meeting the eccentric Mayor’s daughter Malicia, they set off to uncover why exactly all the food and rats from this town are missing.

A Colorful Cast

Maurice the Cat (Hugh Laurie) is the leader of this band of characters and tries to make clear he mainly cares about the score from the various swindles they pull. However, as the film proceeds, it becomes clear that this kitty con artist has a fuller heart than he previously let on. Laurie being able to play a character with a tough exterior but a heart of gold helps endear the audience to his character.

Keith (Himesh Patel) pretends to be a pied-piper that leads the rats away from towns after a con has been finished. He never seems to want for more. Meeting Malicia is the catalyst he needs to become a more proactive version of himself.

Malicia (Emilia Clarke) has a unique position in the narrative, as she is the narrator who introduces the story to the audience. Occasionally, she pops in to remind the audience of fantasy tropes and serves as another protagonist. Clarke’s bubbly charm, for which she is known, shines through and makes her one of the movie’s most entertaining characters.

Dangerous Beans (David Tennant) is one of the many rat characters, though he doesn’t really materialize until the second half of the movie. He gets the chance to philosophize and wax poetic about the nature of rat freedom in the face of the villain. Simply put, Tennant could read a terms and conditions document and make it sound interesting.

“The Rat King” AKA “Boss Man” (David Thewlis) is an unusually creepy villain for a children’s movie. The character’s visual design and animation, coupled with Thewlis’ naturally raspy voice, leaves quite the impression.

For an animated movie aimed at children, this movie has an unusually large cast of characters still worth briefly mentioning. There’s the rat’s fearless leader Darktan (Ariyon Bakare), the would-be thespian rat Sardines (Joe Sugg) and the charming Peaches (Gemma Arterton). Also, the actual Pied Piper (Rob Brydon) and Death (Peter Serafinowicz) make very brief but memorable appearances.

The Cat’s Out Of The Bag

Both Malicia and Maurice break the fourth wall to point out fantasy tropes, though the movie never seems to play with them any further. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity, but it doesn’t clash with the rest of the narrative.

There are quite a few humorous moments scattered throughout that are evocative of the dry British wit often found in the works of Aardman Animations, and are always delightful. This humor, coupled with the energetic animation, helps solidify this as one of the more upbeat movies playing this year at Sundance.


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