Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There was a golden age of British comedy in the blissful innocence of those Ealing summers before pipe smoking opinion nudgers decided that what had been made at the studio should be preserved forever in formaldehyde. Nick Park, creator of claymation masterpieces, such as The Wrong Trousers, is nothing if not old fashioned. He's on George Formby's team, rather than George Clooney's, and yet The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit arrives under the DreamWorks banner. What will American kids make of a bumbling country vicar, a vacuous lady of the manor, an upper-class cad and an annual vegetable produce show? This film is as far from Shark Tale as The Dandy is from Marvel.

As well as rural Forties class culture, with a Northern tang, the other influence is Heath Robinson, that genius inventor of mad machines. Wallace & Gromit's house is filled to the rafters with gadgets and gizmos to help the pair do everything from getting up in the morning to be forewarned of rabbit attacks in neighbourhood kitchen gardens.

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They run a man-and-a-dog business, called Anti-Pesto, that protect veg from vermin infestation and, in this village, greens rule because of the prestigious golden carrot awarded every year at the Tottington Hall Fair for the finest single vegetable in the district. True to their humane natures and inventive skills, the Anti-Pesto duo is opposed to blood sports, or killing of any kind, and so hoovers the rabbits from their burrows into a vast bell jar from where they are transported to comfortable cellar accommodation in Wallace's house.

Borrowing from a host of pre-Fifties sci-fi/horror/adventure flicks, from King Kong to Jekyll & Hyde to anything with Peter Cushing, Park (and the Aardman team) has fashioned a supremely English bunny monster animated spoof, starring a bald Yorkshireman with big teeth, a silent dog that drives a van, Lady "Totty" (superb aural performance by Helena Bonham Carter) and Victor Quartermaine (inspired Flashmanesque banter from Ralph Fiennes), the gun toting country house bounder with a dodgy toupee.

The animation appears as simple as Toy Story's Mr Potato Head, but contains within its strict boundaries such infinite subtlety that the curl of Victor's mouth, or the twist of Lady T's lip, or the movement of Gromit's eye reveals rivers of emotion.

If the film evokes wistfuls of that other fictitious English village, Much Binding-in-the-Marsh, with the faintest echo of leather on willow, it will warm the teapots of slippered wrinklies everywhere. What of rugrats brought up on PlayStation and Pixar? Will they comprehend an all-consuming passion for vegetable marrows?

Reviewed on: 13 Oct 2005
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A vegetable horror comedy for claymation villagers and a dog.
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Anton Bitel ****

Director: Steve Box, Nick Park

Writer: Bob Baker, Steve Box, Mark Burton, Nick Park

Starring: voices of Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Kay, Nicholas Smith, Liz Smith, John Thomson, Mark Gatiss, Vincent Ebrahim, Geraldine McEwan, Edward Kelsey, Dicken Ashworth, Pete Atkin, Noni Lewis, Christopher Fairbank, James Mather

Year: 2005

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK/US

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