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Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) Print E-mail
Wednesday, 05 October 2005
“Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” includes a little featurette at the beginning explaining how the Plasticine figures were made and animated. I’m not sure why DreamWorks felt it necessary to explain the details of this kind of stop-motion animation; the film speaks very well for itself. Does it make the movie better to know the filmmakers used three tons of Plasticine? And anyway, except for those interested in behind-the-scenes details, it really doesn’t matter very much. In theaters, the movie is accompanied by a short starring the gangster-talking penguins from “Madagascar,” but this was (unwisely) not shown at the press screening.

What does matter is that the promises of Nick Park’s three previous “Wallace & Gromit” shorts—two of which won Oscars—are very nicely kept in this feature-length adventure of cheese-loving inventor (as before, voice of Peter Sallis) and his silent (has to be; no mouth, you know) but brilliant and faithful dog Gromit. Now they are running “Anti-Pesto,” a pest-removal company based on humane principles. For example, they use a large vacuum machine of Wallace’s design to suck all the cute but destructive bunnies out of the lawn of Lady Tottington (Helen Bonham Carter), who lives near W&G’s small northern England town. But they don’t destroy the rabbits; they take them home and keep them as (plentiful) pets. Lady Tottington is very sweet, and quietly attracted to the oblivious Wallace. She also has another suitor, the kill-happy Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes).

The community is all a-buzz about the upcoming giant vegetable competition, held annually at Lady Tottingham’s. The populace is nervous that their prize carrots, pumpkins and whatnot might fall victim to pesky local herbivores, and so are happy to have the diligent team of Wallace & Gromit close at hand. Gromit himself has an entry for the giant vegetable contest—a large marrow that he has tended carefully, and truly loves. (The dubbing turns it into a “melon,” but it’s clearly that large, zucchini-like squash, the marrow, grown extensively in the British Isles but rarely on this side of the Atlantic.)

In hopes of solving the problems of their proliferating rabbit pets, Wallace tinkers with a brain-scanning device, but mostly he’s crackers for cheese, Wensleydale if at all possible. Everything seems copacetic—until a mysterious gigantic rabbit appears one night and begins raiding all the local vegetable gardens. Lady Tottingham wants Wallace & Gromit to chase down the giant bunny, but Quartermaine is determined to kill it, make himself a local hero and claim Lady Tottingham in marriage. Can W&G stop this buck-toothed menace before the great giant vegetable contest?

“Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” zips along; it’s constantly moving, especially in the climax with Gromit and Quartermaine’s dog pursuing each other while riding amusement park planes. (Too long to explain.) And of course there’s the King Kong-scale rabbit, not just a menace but the focus of a surprise.
Nick Park co-directed with frequent collaborator Steve Box, and they wrote the script with Mark Burton and Bob Baker. Burton co-wrote “Madagascar,” and Baker comes from many years of writing “Dr. Who.” It’s bright, funny and occasionally silly—there are some fairly obvious visual puns (and lots of matching dissolves) and other kinds of puns, too, such as Wallace’s shelf of books that includes “Fromage to Eternity,” “East of Edam” and other cheese-flavored classics. But these are on and off screen so quickly there’ no time to groan.

There is some spoofery aimed at classic horror movies—the title itself echoes Hammer’s “The Curse of the Werewolf”—such as an overwrought clergyman who keeps warning everyone that the horror dwells within. There are lots of gags centering on the impish and almost terminally cute bunnies, including a long credit crawl at the end decorated with floating, smiling bunnies who wave at us.

As in the shorts, there is a parade of Wallace inventions shown off for our delectation, as in what happens when the pest alarm at the garden of one of their clients goes off. Nick Park’s movies are endlessly, awesomely inventive—and it starts with the characters. I have no idea how he came up with a cheese-loving chap and his voiceless dog who loves to knit, but it’s all absolutely splendid.

Ultimately, it’s pointless to discuss the details of movie like this—they should be discovered by everyone. Do not, oh please do not, make the mistake of assuming that because this is animation, it’s primarily for kids. Children will undoubtedly love it and want a bunny like those in the film, but it’s also for adults, and not just because of the semi-naughty little jokes here and there. It’s a breezy, warm and very funny movie, one of the best of 2005, and you should immediately drop everything and go see it.

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