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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 

Today we saw the new, feature-length Wallace and Gromit film. It's a lot of fun, but in many ways doesn't quite work, though I'm at something of a loss to explain why. The plot, which revolves around Wallace and Gromit's company, Anti-Pesto, working at humane bunny removal, gets a bit bogged down toward the middle but then livens up considerably once the new were-rabbit plot unfolds.

The characters of Wallace and Gromit certainly remain as loveable as ever, and seeing their surroundings more heavily populated with a full range of British eccentrics is entertaining. As usual, there is a multitude of brilliant gags, but for some reason they often fall flat here. How hilarious they are is easily demonstrated by seeing any of them in isolation (as I'd done earlier with the were-bunny bait and bridge sequence). Somehow, in context, there is a narrative seriousness at work that seems to dispel much of the humour, and I think the Hans Zimmer, Danny-Elfman-referencing score is partly to blame (though he is a terrific film composer in general).

Two of my favourite sequences are the opening pan across framed pictures portraying Wallace and Gromit's history together, with its schisms and resolution, and the near-death experience vision of one of the bunnies in an early scene. The early sequences showing Wallace and Gromit's morning routines are unfortunately likely to be over-familiar to fans, but should have plenty of magic for those new to this pair's antics.

There are many sequences referencing familiar films, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and King Kong, but these at times detract from the action itself. The romance between Wallace and Lady Tottingham-Smith is cute and does add a certain amount of depth, but many of the elements throughout echo A Close Shave a little too closely for my liking.

It is delightful to see this amazing claymation on screen (complete with fingerprints) - replete with beautifully detailed backgrounds and diverse characters. It's well worth seeing for animation fans for the change of pace from computer-animated fare. Somehow the nature of Wallace and Gromit as characters fails to carry a feature-length work fully, whereas Aardman's previous movie, Chicken Run provided real heroism (particularly in the character of Ginger) along with considerable depth and much-needed pathos to help balance the humour. Nonetheless, it is undeniably enjoyable to have Wallace and Gromit back!

J said it was "a bit silly" but still gave the film 4 stars (David Stratton on At the Movies gave it 5).

As a nice bonus, there was a Madagascar animated short, featuring the penguin characters during a Zoo Christmas in New York, and this worked better for me than anything in that film :).

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Comments:
Thanks for the review. These films are so cute.
 
I totally agree with your review. I found my attention wandering, and couldn't explain why exactly. I did find myself laughing at a few bits that seemed to go over the heads of the rest of the audience, but on the whole - I watched without involvement. Perhaps it lost some of it's appeal appealing to a wider audience. Or perhaps it was because the relationship focus was on W & his girl/her man instead of W/G/W's screwups?
 
I'm looking forward to seeing it, though the plot does sound a bit-- I don't know--not my thing, I guess.

Did you hear about the fire in their warehouse? So sad.

How's life in Illustration-Friday land? I haven't had much time to participate lately...and miss it, but still don't have time.
 
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