movie coverI'd rather be watching TV![IMDB link] [Netflix link]

QUIRKS/PLOT: Based on the 20th book in Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld fantasy series, this is a dark fantasy about Christmas coming into peril. Death [The Grim Reaper] ends up having to take The Hogfather’s [Santa Claus’s] place for Hogswatch [Christmas], and must save The Hogfather [Santa Claus] from being wiped out of existence entirely due to people not believing in him. This is accomplished via the Tooth Fairy. Yes, the summary doesn’t make much sense. I decided to pass on this, then came back a 2nd time and asked Carolyn’s opinion. She said no. Then I came back a 3rd time and finally decided to get this despite both of our reservations. (I’m glad I did.)

PEOPLE: I instantly recognized Nigel Planer from The Young OnesCarolyn couldn’t believe I could recognize someone from something we haven’t really watched in 13 years. But he was playing a character who was just as bumbling and pathetic and silly as Neil from Young Ones — only a wizard, this time.

And was happy to see David Warner, after recently having discussions online about my inability to differentiate him from Alan Rickman. I think I’m getting better at that; Warner tends to look much older, though the age difference is only 5 years. Warner has a harder face. I still don’t see much difference between this and this (especially when you take into account their sinister British voices).

Unlike the Wyrd Sisters movie, Death is not voiced by Christopher Lee (Count Dooku in Star Wars), but voiced by Ian Richardson (From Hell, Mr. Book from Dark City, Mr. Warren from Brazil [“An empty desk is an efficient desk!”], and even Oberon from the 1968 Midsummer Night’s Dream).

Michelle Dockery was quite attractive as Susan, granddaughter of Death. She looked oddly familiar, but apparently I’ve never seen her before. Marc Warren did a good “cartoonishly creepy” murdering sociopath — he was The Repairman in the movie Wanted. David Jason played a minor character – Albert – who is basically Death’s butler. He also played Count Duckula back in the day, as well as Danger Mouse. Peter Guinness played Medium Dave, who was Lord Crane in Sleepy Hollow (1999) and was in Alien 3. Violet (a tooth fairy) was played by Sinead Matthews, who will be in The Boat That Rocked, a movie we plan on watching soon.

VISUALS: The Made For TV level effects show themselves at times, but overall this was done quite well. The fantasy world is rich and varied. It’s no Harry Potter, but it was probably made for a fraction of the budget. And there actually are a few scenes at a wizardry school, which pretty much IS Harry Potter.

MORALS: Sometimes you need to imagine in something that isn’t real in order for it to become real. Justice, for example.

BAD STUFF: It’s a Made For TV movie — but it still looks pretty good despite that, due to it being recent. This also means it’s over 3 hours long, which may be too much for some people to watch in one sitting. Terry Pratchett‘s stuff apparently doesn’t adapt super well to film either — people complain that a lot of the humor seems lacking.

In fact, there was plenty of humor, but it came off as corny in many parts — The Auditors especially came off like bad guys from a 1970’s kid’s show, instead of from a real movie. Nigel Planer, despite being awesome, felt like a failed attempt at bringing levity to the situations.

I have no personal experience with Terry Pratchett‘s work, but my impression based on watching the Wyrd Sisters and this movie are that they are quite random and quirky. It is a haphazard world, and fantasy snobs someone expecting a well-constructed epic fantasy story might be put off by Pratchett’s randomosity and non-serious tone. For those who just like escapism from boring planet earth, however, this simply represents another flavor of fantasy: Quirky for quirky’s sake.

CONCLUSION: This was a great Christmas “movie” to watch! Best “dark Christmas” story since Nightmare Before Christmas! Nowhere near that quality, but 3+ hours of quirky fantasy entertainment featuring The Grim Reaper having to take over Santa Claus’s role while dealing with the Tooth Fairy turned out to be quite entertaining.

RATINGS:
Clint: Netflix: 4/5 stars. IMDB: 8/10.
Carolyn: Netflix: 5 (4.6)/5 stars. IMDB: 9/10.
The native public rating for this movie is: IMDB: 7.5/10, Netflix: 3.7/5 stars (Netflix‘s predicted rating for us was 4.2/5 stars, and Netflix was right that we rated this higher than average).

RECOMMENDATION: Worth seeing if you really like fantasy!

SIMILAR MOVIES: Definitely some slight similarities to Nightmare Before Christmas (Death as Santa Claus works out about the same as Jack Skellington trying to “make” Christmas), as well as Harry Potter (the school for wizardry; the rich fantasy world; fantasy book made into a long movie). The Grim Adventures Of Billy & Mandy also came to mind a lot, as we had a strange-accented (British is strange) sometimes self-deprecating, unexpectedly-different Grim Reaper.

MOVIE QUOTE: Death: Human beings make life so interesting. Do you know, that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to invent boredom.

FRIENDS’ RATINGS: Benj really liked it.

Mood: hungry
Music: Gwar – Letter From The Scallop Boat