movie film review | chris tookey

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

© Aardman/ DreamWorks - all rights reserved
  Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
8.35 /10
Voices :, Wallace: Peter Sallis
Full Cast >

Directed by: Nick Park and Steve Box
Written by: Bob Baker, Steve Box, Mark Burton and Nick Park

Released: 2005
Origin: UK/ US
Colour: C
Length: 85

Pure, 24-carrot gold.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Shame on those of you who wondered if Britain’s most eccentric auteur Nick Park might cave in to Hollywood pressure and turn out to have feet, as well as characters, of clay. If ever you doubted whether Wallace (pictured right) and Gromit (pictured left), his most captivating creations, could make the tricky transition from short films to feature-length blockbuster, you can relax. In fact, you can pop the champagne corks and start celebrating.

Only a couple of days ago, Aardman Productions suffered the disaster of having their warehouse burn down. Now they can rejoice in their greatest triumph. The creators of three of the most inventive, funny, animated shorts in history – A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave (all starring Wallace and Gromit) - have made an even funnier full-length one. And two of our most cherishable national treasures are about to conquer the world.

Entertaining though Aardman’s first full-length feature Chicken Run was, Park’s second, made by a team of 250 over five painstaking years, is classier and cleverer.

It clocks in at a ceaselessly inspired 85 minutes – you’ll need to sit right through the end credits or you’ll miss the final joke - and it’s far and away the best film of the year so far. I would also rate it the most delightful animated feature ever (yes, superior even to the Toy Story films and The Incredibles).

The sophistication of its technique is marvellous, mingling claymation with computer animation so miraculously that you can’t see the join. Yet it always remains true to its roots in low-tech plasticine-modelling. Park’s team has even left in the thumb and finger-marks that give the models such a personal touch.

Their sense of humour is unsurpassed. The addition of Madagascar writer Mark Burton to the writing team has not inhibited the whimsical absurdism of director/ producer Nick Park and his usual co-writers Bob Baker and Steve Box (who also co-directs). Although the film is financed by a Hollywood company, Dreamworks, it remains defiantly, eccentrically, refreshingly English.

The story is gentle but not sentimental, child-friendly without being childish, simple enough for tiny tots to follow, yet richly humorous enough to reward the most sophisticated adult (although there are a few seaside-postcard-style, naughty jokes, these are funny rather than gross, and will sail over the heads of children).

The movie has at its centre surely the two most charming characters in animation history. The incorrigibly optimistic inventor Wallace (immaculately voiced, as ever, by Peter Sallis) and his more cautious canine chum Gromit (who has no voice and no mouth, yet still manages to be hilariously expressive) have formed a civilised vermin-removal company for the humane protection of vegetables, called Anti-Pesto.

On the eve of the annual Giant Vegetable Competition in their idyllic village, a sort of north-country Market Blandings, they seem at first to have eradicated the menace of ravenous rabbits by means of Wallace’s amazing, dafter-than-Dyson invention, the Bun-Vac 6000. But then a buck-toothed bunny of enormous proportions starts marauding the local vegetable patches by moonlight.

Desperate to avert carrot-crunching catastrophe, the super-aristocratic organiser of the contest, Lady Campanula Tottington (delightfully voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) commissions Anti-Pesto to save the day and ensure that the buck stops here.

Wallace and Gromit’s rival bunny-exterminator is Lady Tottington’s snobbish and avaricious suitor Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes at his most splendidly maniacal) who fancies himself as a hunter and wants to shoot the beast - and any other furry creature who gets in his way, including Gromit - with his elephant gun.

Who will succeed in destroying the voracious veggie before it can masticate Gromit’s massive marrow? Can Lady Tottington reconcile her need to protect the local fruit and veg with her insistence that “I believe the killing of fluffy creatures is never justified”? Can Wallace and Gromit tempt the monstrous mammal to its doom with a gigantic female rabbit that can flutter its eyelashes, and even bump and grind to David Rose’s The Stripper?

Will the appalling Victor or the love-smitten Wallace win the hand of the fair and flirtatious Lady (“Call me Tottie”) Tottington?

And what is the true identity of the hopping horror that appears by night? What, above all, is its symbolic significance? Can the vicar be right to claim, when he can be torn away from furtively perusing his favourite magazine “Wrestling Nuns”, that the Were-Rabbit is an act of God – that by raising vegetables of unnatural size, the village has brought a terrible retribution on itself?

Last but not least, with a rabbit on the rampage that’s the size of King Kong, isn’t it a trifle incautious of Lady Tottington to turn up to the Annual Vegetable Competition dressed as a giant carrot?

Don’t be deterred if you have never seen any of the Wallace and Gromit film shorts (though I would strongly advise you to do so). Don’t worry even if you haven’t seen the old films that Nick Park and his pals lovingly lampoon – including such classics as Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolf-Man. As Wallace would say, you’ll still have a cracking time.

Be warned that this film contains groan-inducing puns. Wallace’s obsession with cheese even extends to his library, which includes East of Edam, Grated Expectations and Fromage to Eternity. And guess where Gromit went to college? Yes: Dogwarts. But so frantic is the rate of great visual as well as verbal gags – I would estimate, at least five or six per minute – that whatever your sense of humour, you should be laughing out loud throughout.

With this film, which builds domestic absurdity to new, surreal and spectacular heights without sacrificing the quaint, homely charm of the original shorts, the endearingly naive, sweet-natured Wallace and the endlessly resourceful Gromit join the pantheon of great cinematic double-acts.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers themselves would envy the couple’s effortless camaraderie, their grace - and, most of all, their scripts.

Like many classic double-acts, not excluding Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Steptoe & Son, and Minder’s Arthur Daley and Terry McCann, Wallace and Gromit are a disguised marriage.

Wallace considers himself the clever, masculine, visionary one, while the more practical, wifely partner (in this film, Gromit even gets to knit) watches over his excesses with an anxious expression, tries to control the master’s intake of Wensleydale (which is giving him middle-age cheese spread), and comes speeding to his rescue whenever he gets into life-threatening scrapes.

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is uproariously funny, witty and sweet, with many moments of sheer genius. I’m not ashamed to admit that it made me cry, first with laughter, then with joy. You don’t often see perfection in a movie, but this is it.

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