Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Director : s Nick Park & Steve Box
Screenplay : Nick Park & Steve Box and Bob Baker & Mark Burton
MPAA Rating : G
Year of Release : 2005
Although Wallace and Gromit have only appeared in three short films together in the past 16 years, two of which won Oscars for Best Animated Short, there is something oddly timeless about them, as if they have been around since the dawn of animation. Wallace, the intrepid human inventor who is constantly undermined by his own daffy lack of common sense and insatiable hungering for cheese, and Gromit, his patient and wordless canine, are a perfect pair whose opposite sensibilities bind them together into a snug sense of indelible companionship.
Brought to life via the painstaking process of plasticine stop-motion animation, there is a quirky sense of life to the Wallace and Gromit films. While the textures and slightly jerky three-dimensionality of stop-motion animation has long since been surpassed by the technical wizardry of computer animation, its aura has not. There is something indescribably satisfying about the vaguely off-kilter world of Wallace and Gromit and its litany of details, from tiny gags involving book titles and wallpaper patterns, to the clever juxtaposition of mundane small-town life with Wallace’s massive, Rube Golberg-like contraptions.
In their first feature-length outing, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the dynamic duo are currently employed in the pest-control business. Calling themselves Anti-Pesto, Wallace and Gromit run a humane, critter-friendly operation in which they capture, rather than kill, the numerous rabbits that plague their small town and threaten the locals’ vegetable crops. It is a particularly sensitive time because the 517-year-old Tottington Hall Giant Vegetable Competition is nearly at hand, and all the oversized squashes, pumpkins, and melons people have been growing are particularly tasty targets.
Wallace and Gromit are hired by Lady Campanula Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) to rid the Tottington grounds of rabbits, and when Wallace attempts to “brainwash” the captured animals into not wanting vegetables anymore, he unwittingly unleashes a massive were-rabbit who sends the entire town into a panic with its destruction. This incites Lady Tottington’s trigger-happy suitor Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) to suggest more violent means of taking care of the problem, which naturally goes against the peaceful, harm-no-animals tone of the film (even Wallace’s rabbit-sucking contraption known as the Bun-Vac makes the bunnies think they’re ascending to heaven).
Naturally, the story itself is fairly inconsequential and exists largely as a set-up for the ever-increasing lunacy faced by Wallace and Gromit. Co-directors Nike Park and Steve Box keep the pace constantly hurtling forward, with only minimal detours to mine less obvious bits of humor; chief among these is a literal halt of the narrative when Gromit and Victor’s toothy hunting dog are battling atop a racing coin-operated plane and must pause to insert more coinage before the battle can continue.
Although the film is filled with plenty of hectic action and dead-on parodies of old horror movies, Curse of the Were-Rabbit works best in its depiction of the relationship between Wallace and Gromit. Their devotion to each other is both admirable and borderline absurd, particularly in the way Gromit wordlessly conveys his exasperation with and uncompromised love for his master at the same time. It’s the kind of heartfelt goofiness that makes you want to burst out in a classically English Wallace-ism; I’d suggest “Splendid!” or “Good show!”
Copyright ©2005 James Kendrick
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All images copyright ©2005 DreamWorks Animation