The Hogfather is the first case of a Terry Pratchett novel being adapted into live action. In the past we have had one or two animated Discworld mini-series, and a stop-motion mini-series of ‘Truckers’, but no one has ever put a Discworld novel up on the screen in live-action form before. Perhaps the special effects haven’t been up to scratch in the past… the recent advances made in CGI in the last ten years have made it possible for all sorts of books and comics to be adapted for the screen. This is great news for Discworld fans and the recent success of this adaptation should pave the way for further live-action of Discworld novels.
The Hogfather is a Discworld equivelant of Santa Claus. He’s a pig-like demi-God (looking a lot like Santa Claus) who gives presents to all the children on Discworld. Unfortunately, the Auditors (other-worldy beings who seek to impose order on the irrational Discworld) have taken out a contract to have the Hogfather killed. Enter Mr. Tea-Time (pronounced Tee-a-timmy), a creepy-looking young assassin from the assassin’s guild. He kidnaps a Tooth Fairy and forces his way into the Tooth Fairy’s realm, where he sets in motion a chain of events that tips the scales of belief out of whack (causing the disappearance of the Hogfather, and the subsequent appearance of various lesser new demi-gods, like the God of Hangovers. Meanwhile, it’s Hogstide and the children still need their presents, so Death steps up to the task – donning the white and red robes and a false beard in the hopes of passing himself off as the Hogfather…
I haven’t read ‘Hogfather’, I’ve only read two Pratchett books, so I can’t really compare the film against the Discworld book. I’ve read that a lot of fans felt this mini-series was very faithful to the book version, so I guess it can’t be faulted there. It certainly looks top notch, the Unseen University, Death and all the other slightly askew aspects of Discworld come across beautifully and completely A-grade (budget-wise).
I don’t know if Pratchett really translates all that well to the screen though. In the past I’ve always winced and cringed at the animated versions, the jokes kind of fall flat when spoken outloud and there seemed to be too much going on. In a book, the humour is much less corny in it’s written form. I don’t think it’s something that can be fixed, it’s just a question as to what works on the page and what works in a script, or maybe it’s just a taste thing. ‘The Hogfather’ does have a few laugh-out-loud moments, but the emphasis is very much on the dramatic side of things – quirky, but serious. David Jason’s role (he seems to have top billing) is pretty much restricted to the first part only, and he hams it up completely. His performance (almost embarressingly) seems to suggest that the actor sees himself as some much-needed comic relief. I found him borderline annoying, and the least at-ease of the cast. Death on the other hand, wonderfully voiced by Ian Richardson, is funny, earnest and moving in his attempts to understand Hogstide. Nigel Planer and Joss Ackland also provide engaging supporting performances as wizards.
Pratchett fans will love this, and no real knowledge of the Discworld series is needed so you shouldn’t fret if you’re not familiar with it’s unique brand of satirical fantasy. Good to see this two-part special attracted some decent talent too.