‘The Amazing Maurice’ Review: A Cool Cat and His Band of Merry Rodents

Hugh Laurie voices a quippy, self-referential cat in this animated adaptation of a popular Terry Pratchett book.

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By Calum Marsh

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“You know, in many ways, I don’t think the plot of this adventure has been properly structured,” observes the droll Malicia Grim (voiced by Emilia Clarke) during a brief lull in the middle of “The Amazing Maurice.”

An animated comedy based on Terry Pratchett’s semi-parodic children’s novel “The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents,” the film abounds with this style of flamboyant, self-congratulatory humor, as Malicia and the talking feline hero Maurice (voiced by Hugh Laurie) routinely break the fourth wall with satirical commentary and glib meta wisecracking.

The effect is a kind of self-important distance, as if the director Toby Genkel and his co-creators considered the material beneath them. What should be a cute story about a mischievous orange tabby cat instead becomes an ironic, even vaguely smug movie in the vein of something like “Deadpool.”

The foundation of the story derives from the legend of the Pied Piper of Hamelin — in particular the version made famous by the Brothers Grimm: Maurice and his band of friendly, intelligent rats (among them the voices of David Tennant and Gemma Arterton) travel from town to town feigning an infestation, then providing the helpful services of an ersatz pied piper, Keith (Himesh Patel), to clear it up.

The modern, coolly sarcastic big-kid riff on a familiar fairy tale has been done before, most notably in “Shrek.” And while it might still have seemed somewhat fresh when Pratchett’s book was first published, in 2001, it now feels like a poor imitation — doubly so when one considers that the script for “The Amazing Maurice” was penned by the “Shrek” screenwriter Terry Rossio, who, with his constant gags about fairy tale clichés, does little to elevate the copy above the original.

The Amazing Maurice
Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 33 minutes. In theaters.

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