Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Top quality Plasticine quirkyness. As good as you could hope for.
Nick Park's claymation creations get their first big screen outing and on the strength of this hopefully not their last. Now running a humane pest control service, Wallace (Peter Sallis) and Gromit use their Heath Robinson-esque inventions to trap a small plague of rabbits that threaten to chomp their way through the village's entrants into the local Giant Vegetable competition.
Of course, it's not in Wallace's character to rest on his laurels, deciding to jury rig a device to brain wash their collected rabbits into, well, not eating all of the vegetables. This meddling with nature has to end in tragedy, as the title of this outing would attest. Will Wallace, or as long standing fans will know Gromit, get to the bottom of the mysterious rampaging lunar affiliated wererabbit? Can he win the affections of Lady Campanula Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter), or will the vile gun-toting bounder Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) ruin Wallace's plans? Come now, stop asking silly questions.
Lord knows how Wallace & Gromit will play outside of Britain; it's a film that makes jokes about giant marrow growing and makes puns about refrigerator manufacturers. This would not seem to be universal comedy, but as we're relatively happily ensconced in Britain at the moment it's not something I have to worry about. Which is fortunate.
As it's rather jolly, all things considered. It has all the usual W&G hallmarks of low key, fairly subtle gags mixed with the show stopping slapstick resulting from the weird contraptions so beloved by our middle aged, middle English meddler. If there's a weakness to it at all it's the finale, where it has to put its gentle comedy on the back burner to tidy up the whole inconvenient 'story' element, but aside from that it's a cracking eighty minutes.
What? Only eighty minutes? Well, yes, it might seem a little short but it's expertly judged, leanly cut and stops wisely short of overstaying it's welcome. The addition of the equally good animated short supporting feature featuring the lovable penguin military outfit from Madagascar should stop anyone feeing cheated value for money-wise.
Park's character design remains a strong point, every new character unmistakably Aardman in origin yet completely distinctive. The real star of the show is, and always has been, Gromit. Quite how Park has created one of the most expressive animated faces ever seen without him even having a mouth is beyond me, and for that I salute him. Ten-hut.
W&G does pretty much everything you might expect it to, but for once this is a cause for celebration rather than complaint. It's short, sweet, amusing (frequently hilarious) and pretty much guaranteed to keep the adults as happy, probably even happier than the children that Wallace and Gromit is nominally aimed at. Cracking stuff. Now, where's me Wensleydale?
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.
Ralph Fiennes (Victor Quartermaine)
Helena Bonham Carter (Lady Campanula Tottington)
Peter Kay (PC Mackintosh)
Nicholas Smith (Reverend Clement Hedges)
Liz Smith (Mrs. Mulch)
John Thomson (Mr. Windfall)
Mark Gatiss (Miss Blight)