WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT
****1/2 (out of 5)
October 7, 2005
Peter Sallis as WALLACE
Ralph Fiennes as VICTOR QUARTERMAINE
Helena Bonham Carter as LADY CAMPANULA TOTTINGTON
Peter Kay as PC MACKINTOSH
Nicholas Smith as REVERAND CLEMENT HEDGES
Directed by: Steve Box and Nick Park
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
There was a time when the highest quality family film was made with ink and paint. Sure, there are family classics like “Old Yeller” and “Pollyanna,” but the real money train in family films has been animation. However, in recent years, ink-and-paint animation has been all but abandoned for feature films and only has a home on direct-to-video and television markets.
The real staple of family animation nowadays is computer generated films, like “Shrek” and “Finding Nemo.” However, there’s still an old-school process out there that has a certain appeal – stop-motion animation.
Not too long ago, “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” reinvigorated the public’s fascination with stop-motion animation. Sure, there’s not much in stop-motion you can’t achieve more realistically with CGI, but perfection isn’t the key. Part of the charm of stop-motion animation is its imperfections… the slightly choppy movement of the characters… the way that water doesn’t quite work.
“Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” is the latest stop-motion animated film to come out of Hollywood. Made with the style of the film “Chicken Run,” this film utilizes the main characters Wallace and his trusty dog Gromit from a series of popular short films.
Wallace is a cheese-loving inventor who spends his days making Rube Goldberg-style inventions that do everything from brush his teeth to make his breakfast. Gromit is his ever faithful (yet mute) dog who helps him with all of his odd jobs. In “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit,” Wallace and Gromit work in pest control, keeping the rabbit population in check and protecting the gardens of the neighborhood. Of course, since Wallace is a softy, he’s put his brain power to work finding humane ways to keep control of the rabbits.
With a major garden competition around the corner, Wallace and Gromit have been retained by Lady Tottington (voiced by “Corpse Bride” alum Helena Bonham Carter), who is hosting the competition. She chooses Wallace because of his humane methods as well as her attraction to him. However, as the pest control duo eradicate the rabbits from her property, a new menace has appeared in the town – a giant human-rabbit hybrid that rips through security gates and devours the prize-winning gardens.
This film is remarkably and refreshingly silly. It provides a tongue-in-cheek style of animation that is accessible to members of the whole family. Sure, kids are going to love the cuddly rabbits and the exasperated Gromit as he tries to keep his scatterbrained master out of trouble. But the heart and soul of the film can be loved by all.
Even if you haven’t seen the original “Wallace & Gromit” short films, you should get a kick out of this film. Like most quality animated projects, “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” is strongest when it sends out its humor on two levels: one for the kids and one for the parents. There’s deep levels of detail in the sets and backgrounds with jokes only an adult would get. That’s one of the charms of the film.
If you’re not familiar with the style of animation, this is a far cry from “Corpse Bride.” Instead, it has a grotesque, off-center feel that you might remember from the old holiday specials like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” Things are a little less refined, and that’s where the charm lies.
Take, for example, Lady Tottington and her gargantuan lips. She is so far from being a beauty that it adds to the film’s hilarity to see her character speak while others swoon. There also are wild action moments, often featuring Gromit, in slapstick violence that make me think back to the Looney Tunes.
Movies like “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” can renew your faith in animated films. Sure, it’s not the ink-and-paint redemption that some of us wish for, but it provides a great alternative to the run-of-the-mill computer generated flick. It’s not just a great family film, but a great film.