Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Recommendation: The Hogfather

Halloween and Thanksgiving are over so it's going to be Christmas soon! As experience teaches, once December starts it will be over very quickly so I am sure it's not too early at all to start with the Christmas movie recommendations. Maybe this list will be woefully short since I am generally not too fond of Christmas movies. There are so many of them out there, some that you really enjoy watching every year but a large portion of movies that you could easily do without as well. Whenever they make new Christmas themed movies these days I feel really skeptical about them. Such as The Polar Express. Never seen that one, even though it has Tom Hanks in every role and I generally like Tom Hanks.

Anyway, my first Christmas movie recommendation is Terry Pratchett's The Hogfather. Since I already recommended Going Postal in this blog, once winter comes it should be mandatory to recommend The Hogfather as well. It was the first movie of the three live action adaptations that The Mod has done and even though I like Going Postal a lot, I do like The Hogfather better. I even watched it dubbed in German when I saw it for the first time and it was still a funny and enjoyable movie. That means it must be good! Like all of their adaptations it's a two part television production and a damn good one at that. For sake of simplicity however, I will refer to it as one movie in this entry.

I watched that movie before I was into Terry Pratchett, so I had pretty much no knowledge of Discworld or Susan Sto Helit or Death or anybody else that makes an appearance in the movie. One of the main points of critique that I find in amazon reviews for the DVD is that the plot is adapted very faithfully which supposedly has the disadvantage that it is very hard to understand for people who are unfamiliar with the book. I was not only unfamiliar with the book but with the whole world that the movie takes place in and still I had little trouble understanding the plot and following the movie with ease. When one watches the two parts together it is however advisable to take a little break between the two parts or it might get a bit long after all.

The plot isn't easy to explain but I might just try to give you an overview. The Hogfater - Discworld's equivalent of Santa - has gone missing on Hogswatch's Eve (of all nights!) and Death takes it upon himself to help out and deliver presents to all children on Discworld and asks his granddaughter Susan to help him find out what happened. Alright, up until here it does sort of sound like Nightmare before Christmas but believe me, it takes a whole different direction then. They also have to face the evil Mr. Teatime, who will in the end get a much worse idea into his head than just killing the Hogfather. But who would want the Hogfather dead (or inhumed) in the first place?

The Hogfather is similarly beautifully done as Going Postal, most sets look lovely and believable, only the castle of the Toothfairy stands out a little but I think it was the intention to make it look strange and even a bit nonsensical since it is after all the castle of a Toothfairy! It's only natural that the effects can't be as marvellous as in your average cinema blockbuster but I think the TV production quality suits the overall movie quite well and it never appears unintentionally bad.

Death is one of my favourite characters and I really like his depiction in this movie. His mask is very nicely done, including the two tiny glowing orbs in his eyesockets and since his face is unchanging while he speaks, the actor hidden inside the costume makes sure to use gestures that keep the character alive and believable at all times. His assistant Albert is a funny guy and having read about him in the book now as well I can say that I think his portrayal is very welldone, too. Mr. Teatime is appropriately creepy and might even frighten younger children. Whenever people mention his creepy eye I don't know which one they mean because they are both creepy. Finally Susan Sto Helit is portrayed by an amazing young actress. When I first saw her i had the reaction of having seen her somewhere before in a big Hollywood production but having a glance at her imdb I think I was mistaken. It's surprising too, because I liked her very much and she has a very memorable face. She plays an amazing Susan, one of my favourite characters as well, a stern young lady who isn't afraid of monsters or evildoers.

Overall, The Hogfather is one of the good Christmas movies, one that you don't mind watching again each year. It's funny and clever, maybe a bit on the complex side but it manages to captivate the viewer until the very end at which it turns surprisingly serious and dramatic. Since it has been released for four years now (and hasn't been a fancy big budget movie in the first place) you can get it quite cheap on DVD and it would make a nice Christmassy movie evening as well as a sweet present for somebody who leans towards the fantasy genre.

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