There is something undeniably endearing about stop-motion animation. The process is lengthy and painstaking, but produces such unique results. The characters move in their own begrudging way, and in the case of Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, you can even see the fingerprints of the filmmakers in close-ups of the characters. This is literally a labor of love unveiled before our very eyes.
Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) and Gromit have a dedicated cult following, but this film is my first venture into the duo’s hijinks. Wallace is a resourceful old bird; always coming up with wacky inventions and ideas. His mute dog, Gromit, is always by his side.
In Were-Rabbit, Wallace and Gromit run the Anti-Pesto pest control business. Their small town in England is right smack in the middle of a vegetable growing contest, so the residents are extra weary of vegetable-ravaging animals, particularly rabbits. Wallace seems to have some pretty satisfied customers. The greenhouses he constructs are completely secure, with one even requiring a remote control unlocking device to open a la today’s modern vehicles. Enter the “were-rabbit,” however; a beast that can ingest entire gardens in a matter of seconds. Wallace and Gromit begin to investigate.
Along the way Wallace meets Lady Campanula Tottington (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, whose voice has been popular this year), the hostess of the competition. The two experience an attraction of sorts, but Lady Tottington’s current significant other, the snobby and rabbit-murdering Victor Quartermaine (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), will see none of that. Can Wallace and Gromit save the competition from this veggie-loving beast?
Were-Rabbit has something for everyone. Every form of comedy is on display, from slapstick to the most subtle of sight gags. The writing team of Bob Baker, Steve Box, Mark Burton, and Nick Park have constructed a story loaded with creativity, charm, and a whole lot of smarts. The puns are spot on and the characters are appropriately over-the-top, particularly Victor. The unwritten rule that all animated films must provide some risqué humor for the parents is abided to, with a gag toward the end that had me doubled over.
The characters of Wallace and Gromit are among the most immediately likable I have ever seen on screen. Wallace is someone we can all identify with; a sweet old-timer with the heart of a child. He gets so excited about his Rube Goldberg-like inventions. Gromit, although mute, is equally expressive as he does his best to just play along with Wallace’s crazy antics. I had a fear in the back of my mind that the film would operate like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; you are either in or out, with no stretching room. It’s quite the contrary, as those who are new to the adventures of Wallace and Gromit can jump right in.
Were-Rabbit is a celebration of old-school animation with a refreshingly creative story and characters. This is the most enjoyable animated film I have seen all year, and that’s a tall order to fill.
Length: 85 Minutes
Theatrical Release: October 5, 2005 (LA/NY) / October 7, 2005 (Wide)
Directed by: Steve Box & Nick Park.
Written by: Bob Baker & Steve Box & Mark Burton & Nick Park.
Cast: Peter Sallis (voice), Ralph Fiennes (voice), Helena Bonham Carter (voice), Peter Kay (voice), Nicholas Smith (voice), Liz Smith (voice)