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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Hogfather
Hogfather
Genius Products // Unrated // March 4, 2008
List Price: $14.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted March 3, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
V I D E O
A U D I O
E X T R A S
R E P L A Y
A D V I C E
Highly Recommended
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P R I N T
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The Movie:

Before J.K. Rowling exploded onto the scene, the best selling British author was Terry Pratchett. He has penned a wonderfully hilarious novel with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, and has a trio of young adult novels about Nomes (Truckers, Diggers, and Wings which are highly recommended to young and old children alike), among many other works. It's not these books that have made him such a popular scribe; it's the Discworld. An on-going series of humorous fantasy books, the Discworld now encompasses 36 novels and several short stories. The books have been turned into video games, comic books, radio shows, animated TV adventures and, in 2006, the first live action film: Hogfather. Originally broadcast on the British network Sky One, this two-part adaptation of one of the Discworld novel was originally released in the US exclusively through Borders Books. Now in general release this is a wonderfully entertaining and delightful story that is bound to become a Christmas favorite in many households.

The Discworld is just like it sounds; a flat, giant disc that travels through space on the backs of four mighty elephants who in turn are standing on a giant turtle, the Great A'Tuin. On it's surface humans, dwarves, elves, and other creatures go about the business of keeping body and soul together.

As this story opens, it is Hogswatch Night, the evening before the midwinter festival of Hogswatch. It is also the night where the Hogfather, riding in his sled pulled by magical flying hogs, sneaks down the chimneys of good boys and girls and leaves them presents.

Not everyone loves the Hogfather however. A group of mysterious powerful beings, The Auditors, wants him dead and dead by sunrise. So they contact the head of the Assassin's guild and take out a contract on his life.

Now killing a mythical creature that most adults don't believe in sounds like an impossible job, but the Assassin's Guild is known for taking on tough jobs. The contract is given to Mr. Teatime (pronounced "Teh-ah-tim-eh", at least that's what Teatime says) a rather psychotic individual who actually has a plan for killing the Hogfather.

Things like killing the spirit of a midwinter festival has repercussions however, and when Death discovers that the hourglass of an immortal is running low, he takes extreme measures: the least of which is taking over the role of Hogsfather himself, at least for the night.

Miss Susan, Death's mostly human granddaughter, also senses that something is amiss especially when she finds her grandfather in a red suit with a fake beard and a pillow to make him look fat and jolly. Flying off to Death's castle she decides to investigate herself before something awful happens, as she soon discovers it will if the Hogfather dies.

This is a faithful adaptation of the book, which is nice to see. The book had a bit more humor, but this is a very funny (though mostly dry humor) film. To see Death which his black shroud, skull-face and bone hands dressing up and Santa, ummm, I mean the Hogsfather and trying to give a convincing Ho-Ho-Ho is a riot. His appearance at a department store is equally enjoyable especially when he starts giving away the store's merchandise. When the manager finds out he screams that you can't just give things away just because it's Hogswatch. When it's pointed out that giving gifts is the whole idea, he tries to get the town guard to arrest him.

The acting was excellent all around. Michelle Dockery, who played Susan had just the right amount of pluck for the role and played it wonderfully. She even made her Bride of Frankenstein hair style look rather sexy. Ian Richardson easily got the most laughs as the voice of Death. His dry reading was wonderful and he perfectly captured Death's total ignorance of how humans act. Marc Warren was wonderfully creepy as Mr. Teatime, with one glass eye and a quite, psychotic manner. The only problem I had was I couldn't stand his high-pitched whiney voice. Though I could see where it was supposed to be scary, I wanted to plug my ears every time he opened his mouth.

The only flaw with the production is that the plot is a little convoluted, and some minor plot points are easy to miss. The actual reason that the Auditors wanted the Hogsfather dead isn't revealed till near the end, and my 11 year old was confused by it. There are also a few parts that fans of the books will easily pick up though viewers might wonder what's going on. The mouse version of death is one, and HEX, the magical version of a computer, is another. (Though I loved the way HEX was portrayed...just wonderful.) Still, even without any prior experience with the series viewers won't be too lost and those that are willing to invest a little time in the show will be richly rewarded.


The DVD:


This film, which consists of two one and a half hour segments, comes on one DVD in a white standard keepcase. There is no insert.

Audio:

The 5.1 English soundtrack was clean and clear. The soundstage was used a bit and some of the effects, throwing the sound of falling teeth to the rear during the raid on the tooth fairy's castle for example, were very effective. For the most part the action was centered on the screen, but there were enough panning and audio effects to make the show interesting.

Video:

Filmed (and broadcast) in HD, it's too bad that this wasn't released on Blu-ray. In any case the 1.78:1 anamorphic picture looked wonderful with a very good level of detail and nice strong colors. The blacks were spot-on and the whole image just looked wonderful. A nice looking DVD.

Extras:

Unfortunately the ample extras from the Region 2 release have not been ported over. The only extras are the original trailer and an interview with author Terry Pratchett. Missing are the deleted scenes, making-of documentary, and Death's Guide to Discworld. It's a shame those were left off.

Final Thoughts:

This was a funny, touching, and all around clever adaptation of a great book. This first live-action Discworld movie might have some viewers scratching their heads in a few places, but not enough to ruin the experience. It's only too bad that this great Christmas story wasn't released through regular channels a bit earlier. It would make great viewing around the holidays. Highly recommended.

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