First full-length Wallace and Gromit movie

 Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Wallace and Gromit have become British icons - and one of Britain's best exports. Their creator, animator, Nick Park, brought them to the screen in 1989 in the Oscar-nominated A Grand Day Out. They won their Academy Award in 1993 with The Wrong Trousers and again in 1995 for A Close Shave. Wallace and Gromit were popular the world over.

Now they appear in their first feature-length film. And they have another success on their hands, topping the US box office on its opening
weekend last month. But the makers received bad news as well when the production studios in Bristol, the Aardman company, burnt to the ground the same weekend. While they lost decades of film history, many of the clay models were out on exhibition and were not destroyed.

The films themselves are indestructible. They have great appeal to both children and adults.

As the title indicates, the film is something of a spoof of horror movies. And that is a smart move. After all, so many horror stories have become classics of literature and cinema. Older audiences will have quite a lot of fun noticing the parallels with horror movies and the amusing send-ups. Of course, it starts with the play on werewolf. This time the monster is a gigantic rabbit who has an enormous appetite for vegetables. This is especially disastrous for the village because all the inhabitants are desperately tending extraordinarily sized pumpkins and gardens full of veg to win the competitions at the forthcoming fair. Gromit himself is growing a giant marrow. Wallace, of course, does not like vegetables at all. He loves cheese.

Wallace is an inventor (and we see quite a few of the inventions from the previous films as well as a machine for collecting rabbits out of lawns a kind of giant vacuum cleaner without injuring them). Not only does he now create a rabbit Frankenstein creature, trying to brainwash the rabbits to hate vegetables, he also becomes Dr Jekyll and creates his alter ego Mr Hyde.

When the going gets touch, the people turn on the rabbit just as they do in Son of Frankenstein and there is the potential for a bride of the Were-Rabbit. But, when the rabbit is pursued, he seizes the lady of the manor and climbs a tower as did King Kong of old. Just when you thought, the writers might have run out of ideas, they set up Gromit like a British Snoopy and create an air battle modelled on World War I and the attack of the Red Baron. You see how inventive they have been.

The script is also funny and witty. In the middle of the chase, Gromit turns on the car radio and it is playing Bright Eyes, the theme from Watership Down! Some of the jokes have mild and amusing innuendo that will be lost on the smaller audiences.

Nick Park has done wonders with the clay characters, patiently working with stop-motion photography for years. It is extraordinary the expressions he can create especially with Gromit who does not speak but whose facial gestures are worth a thousand words.

The voices are wonderful as well. Peter Sallis has been supplying the voice of Wallace for years and it would be hard to imagine Wallace without him. The villain of the piece, Victor Quartermain, a bounder who wants to marry Lady Tottington for her manor and money and hunt down rabbits with his rifle, is played by Ralph Fiennes sounding far more vigourous than in his films, a real moustachio-twirling performance. Lady Tottington is Helena Bonham Carter, more lively and funny than she has ever been as well.

Fans of Wallace and Gromit will also welcome the musical score with the familiar anthem from the previous films. The Curse will keep you smiling.

LONDON - 7 November 2005 - 1,517 words

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