THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
This version was made for the BBC by American director Rachel Talalay. Talalay obtained her start as a production manager at New Line Cinema and produced several of the A Nightmare on Elm Street films, before making her directorial debut with the series sixth entry Freddys Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991) and going onto other films like Ghost in the Machine (1993) and Tank Girl (1995). These did not set the world afire in fact, all have terrible reputations even if this author has a liking for Tank Girl and Talalay has been working as a director in television since then, alternating between assignments in the US and Britain, where she lives these days.
If one has seen one or more versions of The Wind in the Willows in any of its forms, the story is familiar. Nevertheless, Rachel Talalay makes a nicely whimsical production out of it. The woodland and field around the animals shimmers with a CGI-emphasised hyper-real quality. Talalay is surprisingly faithful to the original story, much more so than many of the other adaptations listed here, with she including sections like Mole and Rats drift downstream and encounter with the god Pan and the various episodes that occur during Toads escape from gaol that many others throw out. That said, the driving of the weasels out of Toad Hall at the end seems to be hurried.
Filmed versions of The Wind in the Willows have the choice to go either of two ways when it comes to portraying the characters in having the actors wearing masks as Terry Jones did, or most commonly by animating them. Talalay disappointingly takes the approach that most stage productions do in having the characters as essentially humans with a minimal amount of makeup to suggest their animal nature. This is disappointing in the sense that one would have thought a modern version could have done sophisticated things with animatronics or CGI.
In the end, for me, it was the casting that ended up working against The Wind in the Willows 2006. Rachel Talalay has cast several of the roles from out of recent British tv comedy Matt Lucas, one of the leading lights from tvs cult Little Britain (2003-8), and Mark Gatiss, one of the central members of The League of Gentlemen and a writer most notably as co-creator of the hit tv series Sherlock (2010 ), as well as Canadian comic Mary Walsh. Mark Gatiss gives a fine performance as Rat but when it comes to Toad, which is the central role of the story, Matt Lucas plays the part in a quavering falsetto that soon becomes extremely annoying. It is an amiable adaptation but Matt Lucass performance throws ones interest in the show off in a big way.
Film online in several parts beginning here:-