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The Hogfather (2006)
Director: Vadim Jean
review by J.C. Hartley
Previously only appearing in pretty successful animated features, this is the Discworld's live action debut, and is there anyone on the 'round world' who doesn't yet know that this is an adaptation of the old (Persian?) model of the Universe, in which the world is a flat disc carried on the back of elephants riding on the back of a giant turtle (in the original just elephants; what holds the elephants up? It's elephants all the way down)? My only gripe is that in the animated credit sequence in which we see disc, elephants, turtle and all, shouldn't the elephants be pacing in a circle? Isn't that what rotates the disc?
Rather like that opening paragraph, in some of his middle-to-late Discworld books, prolific author Terry Pratchett proved quite capable of concocting plots of a fiendish complexity to rival Douglas Adams' entertaining but occasionally unfathomable Dirk Gently titles; this is one of they.
Briefly then, the Auditors, a hive-mind organism appearing as cowled midgets, charged with imposing conformity on the universe, take it upon themselves to rid the Disc of the kind of anthropomorphic representations of stuff that makes people's minds so untidy. They approach the Guild of Assassins in the city of Ankh Morpork, led by Lord Downey (David Warner, Time Bandits, League Of Gentlemen's Apocalypse), to 'inhume' the Fatman, alias the Hogfather, alias our very own Santa. In the book (Hogfather), Pratchett cued a James George Frazer wet dream of blood on the snow, and an examination of the role of narrative in perpetuating existence, admittedly something he does very well.
Downey gives the job to over-enthuastic probationary assassin Mr Teatime, played by Marc Warren (Hustle, Dracula) as a cross between Peter Lorre and Little Lord Fauntleroy. In a brilliant, although baffling, move Teatime sets out to capture the Tooth Fairy's castle, seize the stockpiled teeth, enchant them, with the aid of student wizard Mr Sideney (Nigel Planer, The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents...), and thereby influence children's minds to lose their belief in the Hogfather. As existence for the Hogfather wanes, Discworld favourite Death (voiced by the late great Ian Richardson, Becoming Jane) is forced to take on the Hogswatch night present-delivery duties aided by his servant Albert (David Jason, Only Fools And Horses, Diamond Geezer). Death enlists the help of his spectacularly coiffured granddaughter Susan (Michelle Dockery, Fingersmith, Consent), and she makes her way to the Tooth Fairy's castle accompanied by the oh god of hangovers, one of the potential beings popping into existence to fill the gap left by the disappearance of those other anthropomorphic representatives, or something.
There is a diversion to Unseen University, HQ of Ankh Morpork's wizard community, ruled over by Mustrum Ridcully (Joss Ackland, Flawless), introduced by a rather superfluous scene where Ridcully decides to unlock a bathroom created by the legendary tinkerer BS 'Bloody Stupid' Johnson. Pratchett's invention of Johnson has always seemed like a rather petulant swipe at his namesake, Bryan Stanley Johnson, the obscure but often brilliant novelist.
Overall this is a pretty good adaptation, although a bit slow early on. The second disc is jam-packed with extras. There's a making-of featurette called The Whole Hog, plus deleted scenes, a gallery, trailers and, in The 12 Days Of Hogswatch, there is also Death's Guide To Discworld, which examines the Disc itself, Ankh Morpork, and the leading characters. Death drops in on various learned fans like Dr Pat Harkin, a forensic pathologist, and Ms Elizabeth Alway, described as Mistress of Fans and Disciples whose name rather suggests she would find a role in Ankh Morpork's Guild of Seamstresses. This section is all very jolly but Death's "I'll be seeing you, but not just yet," gets a bit trying.
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