The Amazing Maurice is a serviceable animated film but it is nothing remarkable. Rather than “amazing”, the film is perhaps better characterized as average. It features some unique characters and clever world-building, but it is weighed down by shortcomings in the writing and plot structure. While the film does not have any major flaws, it lacks the originality to set it apart from other films in the genre.
The film follows the titular cat as he struggles to find his place as the only cat in the world with the ability to talk. The film follows the sassy feline as he embarks on a life changing adventure, making both rat and human friends along the way.
The tone of this film strikes a good balance between humor and more dramatic elements. These two halves never feel at odds with each other as the film is able to incorporate comedy into more kinetic sequences. Slow motion and clever dialogue are seamlessly weaved into dynamic action sequences, a standout which is a fight between one of the rats and a chihuahua.
The art style and character design also serve the tone well. Each character’s distinct look and style of movement helps to set them apart from one another. The film’s emphasis on character design helps immerse the audience in its world. Despite looking similar, each rodent character is still given a unique personality through their clothing and way of speaking.
The art style is very effective in its excellent use of lighting. The medium of animation allows for complete control over the setting which the creative team uses to their full advantage. There are many sequences where lighting is used to set the tone of a scene. One standout scene where lighting builds dramatic tension is when two of the rat characters, Dangerous Beans and Peaches, venture into the sewers beneath the city. The dingy lighting of this scene contributes to the claustrophobic nature of the sewers as the characters’ fear builds as they go deeper below.
Beyond the visuals, the world-building of the film is unique and compelling. Without giving too much of the plot away, the central idea of the film’s antagonist, “The Boss Man” is a unique concept, unlike any other children’s movie villain. This mysterious character’s unique design perfectly suits his intimidating demeanor. David Thewlis’s vocal performance provides the perfect sinister tone for this villain. Each of these elements contributes to making this antagonist a highlight of the film.
When it chooses to focus on the rodent characters and their struggles to coexist with the humans, the film feels like a fun adventure. The pacing is brisk as the rats navigate the mysteries of the world around them. Despite being set in a city, seeing the world from the viewpoint of the rats brings a new perspective to a familiar setting. Their perception of human civilization is fascinating, best showcased through the film’s explanation of how the rat characters choose their names.
However, the filmmakers’ choice to split the screen time between the animal and human characters proves to be to the detriment of both storylines and makes the film feel uneven. Fun action sequences with the rats are immediately followed by conversations between the human characters. This contrast between slow and fast-paced scenes is jarring and disrupts the film’s pacing.
These shortcomings are made even more evident by the film’s clunky framing device where the narrator, Malicia, voiced by Emilia Clarke, interrupts the story to provide commentary on the events that just occurred. This narration disrupts the plot flow as the film attempts to draw meaningless parallels that add nothing of substance to the story.
In a bit of an odd turn, despite being the titular character, Maurice does not play a large role in the film. The character has some fun comedic moments and Hugh Laurie’s demeanor suits the character quite well. This makes it disappointing when the main character disappears for a sizable amount of the plot.
Instead, the film chooses to devote a substantial amount of screen time to the human characters, Malicia and Keith. Despite the fun dynamic between Emilia Clarke and Himesh Patel, Malicia and Keith feel bland and unoriginal when compared to the animal characters of the film. This is because the film tends to lean more into traditional archetypes for these characters.
The writers attempt to be self-aware of these cliches through their characterization of Malicia, a girl obsessed with reading who often breaks the fourth wall to call out the cliches of the plot as it unfolds. As one example, the film discusses the role that each person plays in their own story. While Malicia points out these character archetypes in others, she still falls into her cliche role of playing a passive role in her story.
Because of inconsistencies such as these, this self-referential dialogue often feels more like inconsequential jokes rather than attempts to address these issues in the film’s writing. The script shows awareness of the cliches typical of the genre but seems to accept them rather than making any attempt to subvert them.
It is worth noting that not every film needs to be groundbreaking or have an inherently strong message. Sometimes they can serve as pure entertainment which this film can provide to younger audience members. While older audiences may not connect with this film, it still provides a passable adventure with some fun characters and set pieces.
Overall, The Amazing Maurice is sure to be a fun time for children and younger audiences. The film’s goofy sense of humor and likable characters are entertaining. However, it does feel lacking in substance and makes no attempt to expand the genre or challenge any of the archetypes or cliches it references. Despite being cliche at times, there is still some fun to be had with this film.
The Amazing Maurice had its North American premiere in the Kids section of Sundance Film Festival 2023.
Director: Toby Genkel
Writer: Terry Rossio
The Amazing Maurice is sure to be a fun time for children and younger audiences.
I’m Andrew! I love discussing movies and tv shows. My favorite genres include animation, musicals, and especially Superheroes.