Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Wallace and Gromit: the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

I'm a long time fan of Wallace and Gromit (Wallace's penchant for cheese is right up my alley, and Gromit's facial expressions warm my sardonic little heart) and was pretty thrilled about a feature-length film. All in all, the film does not disappoint W&G fans but does retread a fair bit of ground covered in the short films.

Fans and newbies alike are treated to Wallace's inventions-gone-wrong, his eating habits, Gromit's long-suffering yet loyal companionship, unresolved sexual tension between clay figures, and a cute sidekick; all of which elements are present in the previous W&G canon. One unfortunate outcome of this was my frequent feeling that I'd seen this before when it was called A Close Shave, only the sheep were a lot cuter than the rabbits (who looked a bit like pigs). To reinforce this perception of deja vu, the film is liberally sprinkled with references and in-jokes to the previous films.

However, it is unfair to ignore the triumphs of a feature-length film done entirely with stop-motion animation in favor of the shorter, non-theatrical films which came before. Along with Chicken Run, this movie is one of the last remaining animated films (in the western world) not done with computers, a lack I am sorely feeling. I appreciate any attention this art form is given, and art it certainly is. The skill and patience involved are mind-boggling, and the subtleties of rendering these characters and settings amazingly done.

I won't discuss the plot here, which is rather predictable, but I will say that the fingerprints of comic genius lay everywhere. A personal favorite is when Gromit turns on the car stereo to hear the strains of "Bright Eyes" sung by Art Garfunkel, the theme song to Watership Down. Hardly anyone knows this, I think, which made me laugh all the harder. In short, this film is everything one would expect from the W&G folks, but not more than that; if you liked the short films, you'll definitely enjoy it, and if you haven't, you'll enjoy it as well, unless you have some kind of stop-motion phobia. It's a brilliant technical feat, but it's not earth-shattering in the way my experience of watching The Wrong Trousers for the first time was.

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