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The Hogfather - family and children's DVD / television mini-series DVD review
THE HOGFATHER Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 1/2 stars
Actors: David Jason, Marc Warren, Michelle Dockery, David Warner
Director: Vadim Jean   Studio: Genius Products (TVN)
DVD release: 04 March 2008   Runtime: 189 min. (1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
DVD features: Audio tracks (Dolby AC-3 Surround Sound - English)

The Hogfather is fabulously true to fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett's Discworld, from the winding and twisting tale of utter silliness to the underlying morality and social commentary. Not surprisingly, given its quality, it was nominated for several awards and won three. It is live-action, so it differs from the few Discworld movies that have come before. (Though the Wyrd Sisters is worth seeking out!) The Hogfather is in a class all its own.

Be prepared to check logic and reasonable expectation at the door. The opening narration explains a bit of the history of the Discworld, where the movie takes place. The world is a flat disc, and it is being ushered through space on the backs of four humongous elephants which are standing on the back of the great giant turtle, A'Tuin. There are gnomes, dwarves, gods, wizards, thieves, and of course, Death.

The Assassin Guild is contracted to "delete" the Hogfather, who is much like our Santa Claus or Father Christmas - well, with the exception that he looks rather like a hog himself, and has little hogs in place of reindeer. One of the most diverse and entertaining characters on the Discworld is Death, and Death is a central figure in this story. Upon realizing that there is imbalance in the realm of legendary creatures, Death realizes that - for the moment - Hogfather is just gone. Being the all-around good Samaritan that he is, Death puts on the costume and takes his place for the night, spreading cheer and gifts and his much-practiced Ho-ho-ho's to the children. He very cleverly sets it up so that his stubborn granddaughter will try to figure out how to save the Hogfather, and by Discworld as they know it.

A typical Discworld story is like taking a very long, shambling walk with a sweet little old fellow who is not quite sure where he is going yet - and enjoys the process of getting a little lost along the way. We'll definitely get there in the end, but not before we've found several dead ends, dark and comedic humor both, and met a lot of rather interesting souls along the way. The wizards of the Unseen University, for example, are so incredibly well done in The Hogfather - but not one of them is a "normal" character that one might expect to see in a movie, fantasy or no.

Death is a tall, skeletal form in a wonderful cloak with a large scythe, with the profoundly expressive voice of Ian Richardson to give him life. His assistant, Albert (David Jason), offers the sounding board for dry humor and a slightly stereotypical side-kick sort of a viewpoint to the problems at hand. Death's granddaughter, Susan, is played by Michelle Dockery, and she truly gets it just right. Stephen Markus as Banjo is an easy favorite.

This is a miniseries that can be enjoyed by all - including the kidlets - but is probably most appreciated by the longtime followers of the Terry Pratchett novels. There are little details that make the experience richer for having read the books. The very brief appearance of the Death of Rats and portrayal of Nobby are good examples. The characteristic tying-up-all-loose-ends makes it a satisfying watch for anyone, though, new fans or old.

The only bit that seems a little out of place is the portrayal of the child's painting as a mode of transportation. The idea works well in the novel but does not translate well into the movie. In fact, it is about the only part that does not transfer well, reminiscent of skidoo-ing in Blue's Clues, and might just make parents groan a little. It is over-bright and a little, well, strange. The flowing river of paint is somewhat lovely, however.

A suitably creepy bad guy, a beautiful (if bit odd?) heroine, and a world that needs to be saved by the man with the scythe? With a dose of holiday suspense and humor, and the eventual moral of the story, The Hogfather is a classic. Death, I think, agrees with me on that point.
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reviewed by Carolynn Evans
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