Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review
By Shawn McKenzie 10/07/2005
This hasn’t been the best year for kiddie movies. So far, my favorite one has been Madagascar, but Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a close second.
British inventor and cheese lover Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis) and his expressive but mute dog Gromit are a pair of exterminators of pests, especially rabbits. Their business is called Anti-Pesto Pest Control, and they specialize in humanely ridding pests for their clients. Virtually everyone in town utilizes their services, including Reverend Clement Hedges (Nicholas Smith), and Mr. and Mrs. Mulch (Dicken Ashworth and Liz Smith), with Mrs. Mulch wanting to protect her overgrown pumpkin from the rabbits. All of their clients contact Anti-Pesto by summoning them through an alarm installed in their garden gnomes. One of Wallace’s cool inventions is the BunVac 6000, a machine that sucks the rabbits out of their burrows and gently stores them in a holding tank. Meanwhile, Gromit is trying to keep Wallace on a diet because he is getting a little too big for the Rube Goldberg-esque device that drops him into a hole and deposits him at his breakfast table (Gromit constantly has to use the “emergency” backup device to get him through the hole.) The Giant Vegetable Competition, a competition that has been held for over 500 years, is right around the corner, and everyone wants to make sure that the rabbits won’t eat their vegetables. Even Gromit has a giant watermelon he is growing that he plans to enter into the competition, and the prize in the competition is the Golden Carrot trophy. Their latest client is Lady Campanula Tottington (voice of Helena Bonham Carter), a wealthy socialite, and the host of the competition, whose grounds have been overrun by rabbits. Her boyfriend, Lord Victor Quartermaine (voice of Ralph Fiennes), a man with a dog named Phillip and a goofy toupee that he has trouble keeping on his head, would rather just shoot the rabbits, but Lady Tottington likes the humane approach that Wallace has employed with his BunnyVac 6000, and she clearly likes Wallace romantically, infuriating Victor. Wallace and Gromit store the rabbits in their basement, but the problem is though that it is getting too full, and he wants reform the vegetable-loving rabbits so he can free up the basement. Along with the BunnyVac 6000, Wallace has also created a lunar-powered brain manipulator device that he calls the Mind-O-Matic (he originally built it so that he could curb his love for cheese.) He comes up with the idea to connect both devices together and make the rabbits lose their interest in vegetables instantly. Something goes wrong, unfortunately, and their test bunny, whom they have dubbed Hutch, is traumatized. That night, many of their clients’ gardens are rampaged, and the town is ticked. The Reverend has the town’s policeman, PC Mackintosh (Peter Kay), investigate a large bunny-shaped hole in the stained-glass window of his church. The Reverend claims that he was attacked by a were-rabbit. Victor wants to hunt and kill the were-rabbit, but Lady Tottington wants Wallace to capture it in his way. Wallace and Gromit use a large decoy female rabbit on the top of their Austin A35 van as bait to lure the were-rabbit into captivity, but they accidentally destroy the decoy. Wallace leaves Gromit to check on the decoy, and while waiting back in the van, Gromit spots the were-rabbit. He chases it, but it gets away. The next morning, Wallace chews out Gromit for leaving him alone, but they notice some dirty paw prints leading to Hutch’s mangled cage with Hutch asleep inside of it, so Wallace assumes that his invention messed up and that Hutch is the were-rabbit. Wallace and Gromit then have to find a way to keep Hutch away from the clutches of Victor, who is determined to kill the were-rabbit by any means necessary. Gromit soon discovers a problem worse than Hutch the Were-Rabbit, which involves Wallace.
I was a huge fan of Nick Park’s original three Wallace & Gromit shorts. The first one, 1989’s A Grand Day Out, was nominated for an Oscar in the Animated Shorts category (another Park animated short, Creature Comforts, beat Grand that year.) In 1993, Park’s second short, The Wrong Trousers, won the Oscar, and two years later, A Close Shave won in the category again. His first full-length feature was 2000’s Chicken Run, which I also love. It took five years to make this movie, and it was worth it.
I had no doubt that the two main characters would be interesting, but I had a concern about how they would interact with the big name celebrity voices. Wallace is hilariously clueless, and Gromit is probably more animated with his facial expressions than with his words. The only other characters that stand out are the leads, Carter and Fiennes. Carter is actually better here vocally than she was in this year’s Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride. Fiennes has been expressive in person before, but his only vocal performance prior to this was in 1998’s The Prince of Egypt. I saw that movie, but it really didn’t impress me. This one did, and Fiennes’ vocal performance was a big part of that.
I’ve been saying all along that it doesn’t matter if the animation is traditional, computer, stop-motion, or in this case, claymation (technically it’s moulded plasticine on wire frames and filmed with stop-motion animation)…it’s the writing that counts. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was written by Park, Park’s co-director Steve Box, Bob Baker, and Mark Burton (who actually co-wrote the Madagascar screenplay.) While it’s not as slick as a computer animated movie, it’s as entertaining as one. There are a couple of minor innuendoes in this G-rated movie (Lady Tottington holds up a couple of melons in a specific place, and Wallace wears a box around his midsection with the words “may contain nuts” on it), but they will fly over the heads of kids and will amuse their parents. I highly recommend taking in this Halloween treat as an alternative to the R and the wussy PG-13 rated horror movies that will be coming out this month.
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