So you’ve just seen “Rare Exports” and you have a dilemma – you want some quirky Christmas fun – weirder and slightly sinister but not too “out there” that the Christmas theme is lost in the shadows. It’s okay, because the B-List Bargain Crew has covered with the perfect movie to follow “Rare Exports” in a holiday marathon: “Hogfather.”
On the surface, “Hogfather” may look like a poor man’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” spliced with a drunk man’s “Christmas Carol,” but it’s quite a bit more. Based on the book by fantasy novelist Terry Pratchett, “Hogfather” is the one of the closest adaptation of the writer’s Discworld series – as well as one of the most unique holiday movies you’ll ever see.
In Pratchett satirical Discworld setting (think Harry Potter meets Guy Ritchie), everyone is cheerful about the impending Hogswatchnight holiday – everyone except the ominous Auditors. They like a tidy universe, and consider the jolly Hogfather (the Discworld version of Santa Claus) to be a threat. Rather than take action against the Hogfather, they do the next best thing – and hire an assassin. Most of the hit men are perplexed by the Auditors’ request since Hogfather is every bit as imaginary as old Saint Nick. But one assassin, the unhinged Teatime (Marc Warren), reasons imaginary figures are just as vulnerable as real people, and sets out to kill the Big Man in Red.
With the Hogfather’s time growing short, it falls to Death himself (Ian Richardson in his last role) to take over and save Hogswatchnight. But even Death filling for the Hogsfather (if you can call a terrifying Grim Reaper trying to be jolly ‘filling in’) may not be enough, and it is soon up to Death’s estranged half-human grand-daughter Susan (Michelle Dockery) to unravel Teatime’s plot and save Hogswatchnight
Like most of Pratchett’s works, “Hogfather” is extremely multi-faceted, with colorful characters appearing at every turn (at one point, a Hair Loss Fairy spontaneously pops in existence.) The film works simply because the characters are so oddly enjoyable. Richardson’s Death gives Jack Skellington a run for his money, as his baritone and deadpan observation of the merry holiday can be both darkly comic and genuinely poignant.
Near the film’s end, the plot does become too deep, too philosophical and too borderline preachy for its own good. It’s almost as if both Pratchett and the filmmakers felt they had to explain the Discworld counterpart of Christmas as well as save it. Fortunately, this lag lasts for only a scene or two, with the true conclusion proving short and satirically sweet.
“Hogfather” probably isn’t for everyone, but it does hit the narrow cross-section of films like “Rare Exports” by providing a darker yet adventurous Christmastime tale which succeeds in reviling in the holiday without maligning in. Ultimately, “Hogfather” succeeds by putting the spirit in Christmas Spirit.
Own “Hogfather” on DVD for $8.68 shipped at Buy.com