Our Rating: 3 out of 5
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
Either Terry Pratchett is your style of storytelling or it isn't. The Color of Magic is one of the small-screen adaptations of his best-selling books about characters set in an alternate universe known as "Discworld."
The only way you can advance in rank at the wizarding school is by literally stepping into another man's shoes -- and if you happened to assist him in his demise, so be it. This is a system that the ambitious Trymon (Tim Curry) is counting on as he ascends through the ranks with his gaze set on becoming the leader of the wizarding school. But there are quite a few things he has not been informed of, and one of them concerns Rincewind (David Jason). A laughingstock due to his inability to perform even the simplest of spells, the time has come to expel Rincewind -- news he does not take well. In fact, he is despondent about being a failure that he fully intends to kill himself. But as fate would have it, his trip down to the dock coincides with the arrival of Discworld's very first tourist, the good-natured and excitable Twoflower (Sean Astin).
Decked out in a flowered shirt and intent on experiencing all the attractions the city of Ankh-Morpork has to offer, Twoflower is accompanied by a magical trunk full of gold. And the real deal is such a rarity these days that immediately, he attracts the attention of everyone from the Assassin's Guild to the city thieves. He wants to see and do everything -- observe a bar brawl, visit the wizarding school, meet Cohen the Barbarian, and much more. Rincewind wastes no time in conning him out of a tidy sum and intends to run away with it and not honor his obligation -- but Patrician (Jeremy Irons), of the city's unflinching judicial system has other ideas. Either he prevents Twoflower from winding up dead and keeps him occupied or he winds up wishing he had never been born. Faced with brutal and lingering death or playing the role of a tour guide, Rincewind changes his mind -- and sets out on a series of adventures that lead him out of Ankh-Morpork, never realizing that his absence is going to create potentially lethal repercussions.
If there is something to be said for this series of films, it is that it is fun. Though not as hilarious as the book series (where even the narrative is written in layers of sarcastic humor), it is funny and there are no "dull" characters. The casting for this is unusual but it won me over, and I must admit that Sean Astin impressed me, since Twoflower is about as far from Sam Gamgee as you can get. I really love the feel of the film, how it has an otherworldly and slightly incredulous air about it. It is a world in which you might encounter a horse-drawn carriage and a dragon in one place and an astronaut-science experiment in another, where wizards sweep about with their noses in the air and are identifiable in the streets by their pointed hats and red robes, yet Twoflower is dressed like a Hawaiian tourist. There is no shortage of villainous characters and diabolical deeds, either, nor of damsels who are not in distress. The author's quirky sense of humor comes through in absurd conversations and in one case, a heroine who is angry that they prevented her from becoming a human sacrifice. Some of it is downright stupid but who cares?
Having said that, like the other two films in the series, while enjoyable it does seem a tad long at times and I am not sure why. There is not much to be concerned about in terms of content but a few things do bear mentioning. Mild innuendo intrudes on occasion; there is an obvious sexual joke and a funny but delicate situation about consummating a marriage in another scene. Discussion revolves around whether or not the turtle on which their world is world is being carried is male or female (they launch an expedition to "find out its sex"). Women are sometimes dressed in revealing clothing. Violence includes various assassinations and attempts (most off-screen and implied) and swordfights. Any bad language is minor and usually played for laughs. There is a large amount of magic -- wizards use and cast spells, and a big portion of the plot revolves around a spell book that has lost one of its spells (it has gone into Rincewind and sometimes "takes him over"). A wizard toward the end has read all the spells and been possessed by them. Rincewind visits what amounts to a tarot card reader (there is another name for it in their world) and has an out-of-body experience. Death frequently turns up to harass Rincewind (he appears as a frightening-looking Grim Reaper) and take away various individuals to their fate. (On one occasion, this leads to the funniest line in the film about Death's Doorstep.)
I cannot say this will be a movie I will watch over and over again, but it will be one I revisit from time to time when I am in the mood for something totally unique. This is not a film that is going to appeal to everyone but odd are if you like weird fantasies rampant with sarcasm or have read the books, you are going to enjoy it.