I’ve already written about being a fan of the English author, Terry Pratchett ( https://judithornot.wordpress.com/2007/10/02/making-money-by-terry-pratchett ). In 1996, Pratchett wrote a book, Hogfather, about “a midwinter festival bearing a remarkable similarity to your Christmas.” But this is the ancient festival, the solar festival, about sacrifices to make the sun return, and how it morphs into the Father Christmas festival celebrated today.
Back in 2006 they made a TV movie of “Hogfather,” but it was only released in England, Australia, and Canada. This November it was shown for the first time on television in the United States, and now Borders bookstore has the DVD for sale (in-store only, listed as $19.99 but on sale for $16.99). The closest Borders to us is 80 miles away, but it was worth driving for. This is the first live-action of one of Pratchett’s movies, and he was very much involved in it’s production and filming. He even plays a cameo as a toymaker. The DVD includes an interview with Pratchett. I once wrote an email to Pratchett and said I suspected he would be a very interesting person to have a conversation with. He wrote back and said he is really rather dull. Having seen the interview, am now quite sure he was being modest.
After some prologue, the movie opens with Susan (that’s the woman with the sword on the cover of the DVD) reading Jack and the Beanstalk to the children for whom she is governess. “… and then Jack chopped down what was the world’s last beanstalk, adding murder and ecological terrorism to the theft, enticement, and trespass charges already mentioned, and all the Giant’s children didn’t have a daddy anymore. But he got away with it and lived happily ever after without so much as a guilty twinge about what he had done. Which proves that you can be excused just about anything if you’re a hero, because no one asks any inconvenient questions.” I like Susan (Michelle Dockery). 🙂 She is Death’s granddaughter, and is a regular in Pratchett’s Discworld novels, along with Death, Albert, the wizards of Unseen University, members of the city watch, the Auditors, the Raven, and the Death of Rats (who also appear in the movie). The Auditors have decided they want the Hogfather eliminated, and hire an assassin to perform this service. Mr. Teatime (pronounced Teh-ah-tim-eh, and played by Marc Warren) is creepy and sadistic — he nails someone’s dog to the ceiling to keep it from barking while he works. Warren plays him very much like Johnny Depp played Charlie in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and does a very good job of it. When the Hogfather disappears, Death (who really does like humans) decides to take over his job for the night, to keep belief alive long enough for Susan to save the day (with the help of the wizards, Hex the thinking machine, and the Oh God of Hangovers). There is a lot of intelligent humor, silly humor, and some rather deep thoughts about why it is important to learn belief as a child (so we can believe in the big things as adults, such as Truth and Justice).
The DVD runs 189 minutes, but has an intermission in the middle. It is unrated; I suspect if it were rated it would be PG (some mild language). It has joined our list of must-watch movies for the season (along with “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol” (with George C. Scott), and “Scrooged”). If you’ve read Pratchett’s books, you will recognize each character as they appear (they are that well done). If you haven’t read his books, this will be a great introduction and a lot of fun. I give this movie 5 stars.