Friday, August 7, 2009

Jay's Review: The Color of Magic

Here's my take on the Terry Pratchett TV mini-series, "The Color of Magic", in a slightly different for than how it appears on

The Color Of Magic

Official Synopsis:

Some wizards are born heroes. Others must fight for greatness, like failed sorcerer Rincewind (David Jason). When a gung-ho visitor to the Discworld (Oscar-Nominee Sean Astin, Lord of the Rings) enlists him as a guide, Rincewind learns that only he can take on dark wizard Trymon (Tim Curry) and restore balance to the troubled land. Based on Terry Pratchett’s classic story, this adventure is packed with angry Druids, Barbarians, fire breathing dragons and mountain trolls. Featuring Christopher Lee (Lord of the Rings) as the voice of Death, The Color of Magic proves that wizards need only one spell- as long as it’s the right one.

Our Take:

First off, I have to confess I’ve never read any of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels but have heard them widely praised. I’m not sure this TV mini-series adaptation of the first two novels in the series (The Color of Magic and The Light Fantastic) is faithful to the text or will bring readers to them, but it’s certainly charming.

The very opening scene establishes a cloud-covered view of a planet much like Earth... except it’s a flat plate resting on the backs of four elephants, who are themselves on top of a giant flying space tortoise. This leads to Astrozoologists lowering a quaint (and doomed) bathysphere over the side of the world to establish this fact. They’ll later mount a second expedition to discover the turtle’s sex.

That’s a set up that should give you a good sense of the playful and fun-for-most-all- ages adventure you’re getting into here. A medieval fantasy culture (with notes of more advanced technology when needed) is seen through the eyes of a flower-shirted tourist carrying a camera right out of The Flintstones. He meets up with David Jason (now bearing an amazing resemblance to Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter movies) as the incompetent apprentice wizard Rincewind. Tim Curry (over-savoring every vowel) as the bad guy countering their adventures as an wizard killing his way to the top of the wizard heap in a manner right out of Kind Hearts and Coronets.

It’s light and none-to-serious, quickly picking up to pace after a dragging first half hour –there’s a lot of narration (courtesy of Brian Cox) to set things up on the outset. Get through that and this is sparkling, family-friendly adventure. Maidens are saved and dragons breathe fire. There’s a really nice sequence of upside-down battle with magic swords. Adventures proceed at a rapid pace, with the end of part one being the biggest literal cliff-hanger imaginable…

Special Features:

None. The animated menu gives you the option to “Play Part One” (101 minutes), “Play Part Two” (95 minutes), and “Scene Selection.”

No audio selections and no subtitles. The sound is default English 5.1. This was a TV mini-series, and as such is Not Rated.


While you have to pay attention to narration and it’s a little draggy at the get-go, The Color of Magic quickly turns into a whiz-bang family-friendly fantasy adventure. It’s playful, humorous, and clean. The only real worry is that Tim Curry chews the scenery with such gusto you’ll fear your television will fracture.

If you’ve shown your kids “Lords of the Rings” they may just find this more accessible. Only the youngest may be frightened by the swordplay (including a few impaled peasants) or the droll, skull-faced Death who keeps popping up. Fantasy fans and those liking adventure in the spirit of rapid-fire Saturday serials will also find a lot to like here. Namely, a charmingly cozy fantasy adventure, perfect for a rainy day.

Overall Picture:

Movie: B-
Extra Features: D

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