‘The Amazing Maurice’ Review – A Rat Infested Rubbish Bin of Animation

Hugh Laurie voices Maurice in The Amazing Maurice. Property of Viva Pictures.

Based on Terry Pratchett’s 2001 novel The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, The Amazing Maurice follows a talking ginger cat named Maurice (voiced by Hugh Laurie) who, along with a group of rats and a human named Keith (voiced by Himesh Patel) pull a Pied Piper con on unsuspecting villages in order to make money.

The Amazing Maurice poster

Driving the rats is a storybook called Mr. Bunnsy Has an Adventure. The rats treat the book like gospel and believe that a paradise exists where animals wear clothes, talk, and exist with humans in peace. They believe that Maurice will take them to this paradise after this next and final job.

However, their last con is a town seemingly devoid of rats. Not only that, but all the food is missing as well. Mostly on account of their empty bellies, Maurice, Keith, and the rats eventually agree to figure out why all the other rats are missing and why a young girl who is a major book aficionado and fairy tale enthusiast named Malicia (voiced by Emilia Clarke), insists on tagging along.

Animated remotely during the pandemic, the CGI animated fantasy comedy was animated by Studio Rakete (The Congress) and Red Star 3D. The film is directed by Toby Genkel and Florian Westermann (visual effects artist on After Earth and Only Lovers Left Alive) with a screenplay by Terry Rossio (Godzilla vs. Kong) and additional material by Robert Chandler and Toby Genkel.

David Thewlis and Himesh Patel voice Boss Man and Keith in The Amazing Maurice. Property of Viva Pictures.

The character designs are a wide mix of slender bodies, tiny appendages, and round heads; not unlike Skydance Animation’s Luck, which hit Apple TV+ last year or Pixar’s Brave. The sad thing is that hand drawn animated concepts are shown off during the end credits and are gorgeous. Budgetary reasons aside, the fact that we couldn’t get this film in a more traditional style is disappointing.

The animation isn’t very appealing with the human characters, but the simple rat designs grow on you. The standouts are Darktan (voiced by Ariyon Bakare), a beefy brown rat that takes charge on the front lines of every mission and Dangerous Beans (voiced by David Tennant), who seems to be the wise leader of the group.

Sardines (voiced by Joe Sugg) is a mouse with showmanship. He has a tiny mustache and wears a thimble as a hat. He dances and takes the spotlight whenever he’s given the opportunity.

Emilia Clarke voices Malicia in The Amazing Maurice. Property of Viva Pictures.

The writing of the film is a bit peculiar because it doesn’t feel like it works properly until the second act or halfway mark. The introduction of Boss Man (voiced by David Thewlis) along with the reveal of what he really is steers the film into darker territory barely hinted at early on. Boss Man’s inhuman movements and layered cloth appearance, let the audience know right away that something is off about him and it pays off. 

The Amazing Maurice has a narrative that is a story within a story. Mr. Bunnsy Has an Adventure foreshadows what occurs throughout The Amazing Maurice. It’s awkward at times, especially since Malicia breaks the fourth wall and narrates at times while also being a part of the story and lets Maurice narrate and break the fourth wall, as well. It’s a complication that is more exhausting than successful storytelling.

A few of the rats from The Amazing Maurice. Property of Viva Pictures.

The comedy in The Amazing Maurice never works either. The film is fantastically creative at times, but never humorous. Its attempts at humor aren’t exactly unwarranted, but it feels like the characters are being silly solely for the sake of being silly rather than organically arriving at laugh out loud comedy. It’s as if the animated characters are trying too hard, which is surreal to write. 

The film succeeds the most with its explanations of why things are the way they are in The Amazing Maurice. The origin surrounding why the rats can talk and why Maurice can talk is simple yet extraordinary. There’s also some material with Death along with his rat associate Bone Rat or the Grim Squeaker that is incredibly entertaining.

Hugh Laurie and Himesh Patel voice Maurice and Keith in The Amazing Maurice. Property of Viva Pictures.

The Verdict

The Amazing Maurice has animation that may not be appealing to Pixar or Dreamworks enthusiasts. The character designs are mostly crude, but the film goes deeper and deeper into sensational territory the further it swims into the sewers. Even with its rough start, The Amazing Maurice has a gloriously memorable villain, a surprisingly scary version of The Pied Piper, and a fantastically sound explanation for talking animals. It’s an animated film with a ton of missteps, but manages to land on all four feet when the dust clears. 

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