Shrek co-writer Terry Rossio once struck gold with the animated fairytale cultural phenomenon. He once again returns with another fantastical story filled with jokes and talking animals in The Amazing Maurice. However, co-directors Toby Genkel and Florian Westermann can’t quite create their own magic, leaving a well-intentioned adventure that leaves the animal and human characters unsympathetic. Its biggest crime is that it simply isn’t very charming, which is a far cry from the universe that Shrek built.
‘The Amazing Maurice’ is a cat-and-rats story
Maurice (voiced by House actor Hugh Laurie) is a streetsmart cat with a mind for manipulation. He uses an easily-manipulated kid named Keith (voiced by Himesh Patel), who plays the pipe. However, Maurice also takes advantage of a plague of rats with their own agenda to live peacefully amongst humans in a supposed paradise. The cat plans to make as much money off Keith and the rats as possible to achieve his own goals.
The Amazing Maurice finds the title character and his crew as they reach a town called Bad Blintz, where nothing is as it seems. They won’t be able to pull off their well-practiced heist because of the mysterious events already unfolding there. Maurice, Keith, and the rats are in serious trouble if they aren’t able to get to the bottom of the situation in this oddly empty town.
A fairytale about friendship and fate
The Amazing Maurice wraps multiple narratives into one, all of which involve the art of trickery. The rats’ “sacred book,” Mr. Bunnsy Has an Adventure, is the guiding light to their salvation. They dream of an island paradise where nothing bad can ever happen, which Maurice exploits at every turn to make a quick buck. However, the rats begin to question the cat’s leadership, making this dangerous adventure even more perilous.
The food chain is in full effect in more ways than one, with survival being the most obvious example. Maurice’s intelligence keeps him from eating the rats, but that isn’t to say that he isn’t using this superior size, strength, and influence with other cats in other ways. Maurice explains away any wrongdoing because deceit and trickery are what humans excel at. Meanwhile, the humans in the town with no food look at any form of cat or rodent with blame. Keith and fairytale aficionado Malicia (voiced by Game of Thrones actor Emilia Clarke) are exceptions to the rule, although they exist as outsiders in human society.
Malicia acts as more than a side character in The Amazing Maurice. She’s initially introduced as the narrator of The Amazing Maurice, but she’s met with surprises of her own along this journey. Each of the characters forms unlikely friendships that change existing dynamics, as they all work toward individual goals that become more collective. They all share the experience of being cast aside by society, discovering a new kind of family in the process.
‘The Amazing Maurice’ lacks humor and originality
The Amazing Maurice assumes that you’ve never been told a story before. Malicia explains the basics of narrative techniques, such as framing devices, foreshadowing, and flashbacks through breaking the fourth wall. It’s likely for the younger viewers, but it’s needless exposition that plenty of animated motion pictures never found the need to include.
Genkel and Westermann’s worldbuilding is indistinct largely due to the animation meant to bring it to life. It lacks personality, which is a shame, given that the environments of Bad Blintz and beyond have the potential to transport the viewer into its fantastical world.
The Amazing Maurice is a compilation of better fairytales smashed together, devoid of a compelling flair of its own. Despite a cast of impressive acting talents, this animated adventure falls flat with an underwhelming sense of humor. It isn’t entertaining enough for younger audiences, but it isn’t enchanting enough for adults.
The Amazing Maurice comes to theaters on Feb. 3.