Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

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Review (9/10)
(By Ron Henriques)

With so many technological advances in the world of animation a feature that relies on old fashioned techniques can be quite refreshing. The use of plasticine (or play-doh) in stop-motion animation may be old hat in the world of CGI, but directors Nick Park and Steve Box prove that endearing characters and a good story will always win over technology. Finally awarded with their own feature length film, it's amazing that the duo of Wallace & Gromit have only had four short films over their sixteen year career. For those unfamiliar with the characters, Wallace is a bright-eyed, cheese loving inventor lacking much needed common sense and Gromit is his completely silent dog, who despite being the smarter of the two, is forever loyal. Their adventures have ranged from journeying to the moon for cheese to saving a herd of sheep from being converted to dog food. Park is no stranger to feature length animation having directed the hit film ?Chicken Run.? But where that film's British humor failed to effectively crossover ?Wallace & Gromit: The Case of the Were-Rabbit? succeeds with it's universal charm.

Moving at an abrupt, yet pleasant pace, we find our heroes working as rodent exterminators under the name of ?Anti-Pesto?. Their job consists of nightly raids on the prized gardens of neighbors and rounding up pesky, yet adorable hungry little rabbits. This new venture brings them to the lawn of Lady Tottingham (voice of Helena Bonham-Carter) whose estate is filled with ravaging rabbits that can only be removed by Wallace's creation the Bunny Vac 6000, a gigantic suctioning device that can literally suck rabbits from their burrows. Impressed by Wallace's efficiency, Lady Tottingham takes a romantic interest in him that soon enrages her would-be suitor Victor Quartermaine (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), a big time game hunter who wears an even bigger toupee.

Always eager to experiment (including on himself), Wallace develops a device that will enable him to alter the brainwaves of rabbits so that they will no longer desire vegetables or plague Lady Tottingham's lawn. When Wallace tries the device on himself and an innocent little rabbit the result is a ten foot tall fluffy terror that can bite off more vegetables than it can chew. Soon the town's people are literally up in arms over this new creature that ravishes their crops and blame Wallace & Gromit for not living up to their jobs. Always the smarter of the two, Gromit soon discovers that maybe this new terror isn't a rabbit after all.

Crafting characters and scenes frame by frame with plasticine is no easy feat, but Park and Box make an extraordinary achievement with great attention to detail. The animation itself is so clean that the plasticine looks almost edible. Though this is a story with a British setting and characters, the humor isn't the type that will go over the head of a five year old. At times the humor can be very adult oriented, but much of that can only be found in the hidden details including a gag with a naked man wearing a cardboard box that reads: ?May contain nuts!? What keeps the film from becoming a generic kiddie feature is its endearing characters, its stance against cruelty towards animals (a recurring W&G theme) and the talents of its vocal cast.

At 84 years young, veteran actor Peter Sallis shows no sign of weariness as the spry voice of Wallace and his festive spirit truly breathes life into the character. Bonham Carter is a bit more engaging here than her work in ?Corpse Bride? and Fiennes makes a brave choice with a caricature that pokes fun at many of the stiff characters he's played over the years. The film is full of plenty of excitement including a wonderful chase scene involving Gromit pursuing the burrowing Were-Rabbit in his truck underground and a King Kong homage involving the Were-Rabbit, Lady Tottingham and Gromit flying an airplane much like in the short film ?A Close Shave?. This film has a lot more energy, heart and imaginative that the over-praised ?Corpse Bride? and above all, never takes itself seriously.

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