June 14, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

AT THE MOVIES: A Grand Day at the Movies: Wallace and Gromit Hit The Big Time (****)

Perhaps if all films took five years to make they’d be as good as Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the eagerly anticipated full-length feature by the brilliant Nick Park and his collaborators. One meticulous step at a time brought to life these claymation creatures to produce a film that is as entertaining as it is a marvel to behold.

Park set the bar exceedingly high all those years ago when he made the extended shorts that gave birth to the beloved duo, Wallace, a befuddled cheese-loving man, and his oh-so-wise best friend Gromit. For those whose children loved the shorts, “A Close Shave,” “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Grand Day Out,” it was unthinkable that there wasn’t more Wallace and Gromit somewhere – no TV series (thank god) and no more shorts. Nick Park never sold them out and he never gave us more of them than we could stand.

The Were-Rabbit begins with the same funny wake-up and face-the-day contraptions Wallace insists upon utilizing, that poor Gromit must endure. This particular morning, Gromit has served Wallace not his usual favorite breakfast of fatty cheese but a plate of vegetables, which Wallace abhors.

Wallace’s hatred of vegetables helps fuel his latest ridiculous invention – what if he could switch thoughts with rabbits so that the rabbits, that he controls with his company “Anti-Pesto,” could swap brain functions with him so that the rabbits no longer liked vegetables. Wouldn’t that solve the problem of too many rabbits eating up all of the neighborhood’s vegetables?

Mid-way through his experiment, something goes terribly wrong and Wallace somehow switches identities with a rabbit – creating a giant, furry, monstrous rabbit that is eating the town bare. Not only that, but the annual “Giant Vegetable Contest” is coming up and all of the townspeople are worried that the big rabbit will eat their giant vegetables.

Solving this puzzle becomes most of what Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit involves itself with. But there is so much more to the movie, every little, essential movement of Gromit’s weary brow, every funny, dumb thing Wallace does, the sly, double entendres, the music – it is a dazzling spectacle, one worthy of children and adults alike.

Working with Steve Box (also co-directors, Bob Baker and Mark Burton), Nick Park manages to combine witty and original storytelling with jaw-dropping claymation effects, which took 18 months of shooting time and five years in total to prepare the film for release, an exhausting endeavor that will likely not be lost on the Academy, which will probably give this one its Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Park will no doubt put it on the shelf with his three other statuettes for A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers. He would have won for A Grand Day Out but he lost to himself instead for Creature Comforts, a non-Wallace and Gromit short.

Voiced once again by the great Peter Sallis, Wallace is a endearingly thick-headed as ever, getting himself into all sorts of fixes that the reliable little doggie Gromit has to then dig him out of. As usual, Gromit saves the day without a word uttered but instead a host of facial expressions that leave no doubt as to what he’s thinking. These are Gromit’s tales and we follow him along, living the story through him every time.

Joining the fray this time is Ralph Fiennes as Victor Quartermaine, a trigger-happy gold-digger who is trying to woo Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter). Wallace is madly in love with Lady Tottington and every dumb thing he does only brings her closer to him.Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit never hits a false note, nor does it trip up. Like the shorts, it reminds us that those who care about us and have our backs do it mostly without our knowledge half the time. It is the rare moment when Wallace realizes how much his little dog cares for his well-being. It is their bond, their devotion to each other, that elevates the film to, of all things, a love story. And what a story it is.

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