Here our guest writer Ann Philippas takes a look back at the 2006 TV movie, directed by Rachel Talalay (Doctor Who) and written by Lee Hall (Billy Elliot)…
Set against the backdrop of traditional British countryside and with well-known actors Matt Lucas (Little Britain), Lee Ingleby (The A Word), Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) and the late Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) in the lead roles, this masterpiece is a rare treat which the whole family will be able to enjoy again and again.
One of the aspects that fascinates me most about it was the minimal amount of make-up the actors required in order to portray their characters. You just have to look at Lee Ingleby’s dark hair, heavy coat and thin features in order to realise that he is in fact Moley; Ratty’s (Mark Gatiss) thin, whiskery moustache speaks for itself, and Badger’s (Bob Hoskins) shock of black-and-white hair comes across as perfectly natural.
One glance at the spiky brown mops of the two lost, light-fingered, porridge-gulping schoolboys in Badger’s parlour is enough to realise that they are hedgehogs; the acrobatic, antagonistic bad boys with their hair sleeked back are of course the stoats and weasels, while the carol-singing mice who turn up with their sweet little whiskers to bid goodwill to Mole and Rat are just adorable.
The character who undeniably needed the most attention in the dressing-room out of everyone was Mr Toad (Matt Lucas), with his plentiful warts and loud checked suits.
The whole film runs along at a nice and easy pace, interesting without ever being dull and slow.
Toad of course provides most of the witty one-liners and hilarious expressions; his escape through the window from his supposed deathbed is a scream, especially when you watch him jumping up onto the dresser from behind in an unmistakably toad-like manner.
Mark Gatiss – well-known for his pompous, often authoritarian characters – is perfect as Rat, and the way he at one point temporarily abandons his plate on the boat to give a brief, alert twitch of his paws and nose is just wonderful.
The manner in which the book surreptitiously manages to shift its reader’s attention from original timid main character Mole onto the show-stopping Toad always intrigued me, as I constantly failed to realise the gradual change until much later; this clever twist also takes place in the film.
However, there is one scene I loved in the book but which is slightly altered in the movie; it is when Moley unwisely ventures off to find Badger’s home in the perilous Wild Wood.
Upon realising where he has gone, Ratty’s valiant act of unhesitatingly snatching up a loaded pistol and heavy cudgel and setting out into the snowy darkness to rescue his friend touched me deeply – it is a rare form of loyalty found in only the most devoted and bravest of companions.
The BBC’s The Wind in the Willows adaptation is available on DVD on Amazon.