TORONTO -- After breaking in their act in several hilarious shorts -- two won Oscars -- and a TV series, Wallace and Gromit get their very own feature film in “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” Wallace, of course, is that cheerful but daft inventor extraordinaire and Gromit is his silent though sage canine, who quietly cleans up his master’s disasters. Most fans of the U.K.-based Aardman Animations’ magical claymation technique think of these two as the studio’s best creations. They certainly live up to that reputation in “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.”
Aardman’s first feature for DreamWorks, “Chicken Run
” in 2000, didn’t completely manage the trick of maintaining the laughs and stylish glee of its shorts in a film nearly three times their length. The studio now hits its stride in a second outing, displaying the same technical flair, wonderful British wit and a sharper story sense. Since “Curse” is both a family movie and a date movie, DreamWorks should enjoy a long theatrical run followed by a lively ancillary afterlife.
This adventure is scripted by the two co-directors, Steve Box
and Nick Park
, along with Bob Baker
and Mark Burton
. Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis
) & Gromit run a humane extermination company called Anti-Pesto, which collects rabbits savaging vegetable patches in a comfy British suburb and brings them back to the house. (The basement is getting rather overrun by rabbits, the truth be told.)
Anti-Pesto faces its greatest challenge when a monster rabbit devours patch after patch in the days leading up to the annual Giant Vegetable Competition, sponsored by Lady Tottington (an aristocratically bubbly Helena Bonham Carter
). The team must also outwit the blustery Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes
in a delightfully over-the-top caricature), who means to kill the monster rabbit with a gold bullet, a 24-carat one. (The Aardman crew is truly addicted to puns.)
Then the unthinkable happens: Wallace & Gromit meet the enemy and it is … Wallace? Yes, in a foolish attempt to rehab rabbits from their desire for veggies in his laboratory, things went horribly wrong. Now, when the moon comes out, Wallace transforms into the Were-Rabbit in a delightful sequence that captures the best of claymation.
Park and Box can now spoof all the old monster movies, everything from werewolves to King Kong himself. From here on the movie rolls merrily along with slapstick action and whimsical characters. And always there’s Gromit working feverishly to prevent disaster after disaster.Julian Nott
’s jolly music with its mock epic swells just barely keeps up with the breakneck pace, one-liners and jokey signs that fly by too fast for the eye to catch every one.
WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT
DreamWorks Animation presents an Aardman Animations production
Credits: Directors: Nick Park
, Steve Box
; Writers: Steve Box
, Nick Park
, Bob Baker
, Mark Burton
; Producers: Claire Jennings
, Carla Shelley
, Peter Lord
, David Sporxton, Nick Park
; Executive producers: Michael Rose
, Cecil Kramer
; Director of photography: Tristan Oliver
, Dave Alex-Riddett; Production designer: Phil Lewis
; Music: Julian Nott
; Editor: Dave McCormick
, Greg Perler.
Cast: Wallace: Peter Sallis
; Victor Quatermaine: Ralph Fiennes
; Lady Tottington: Helena Bonham Carter
; Rev.Hedges: Nicholas Smith
; PC McIntosh: Peter Kay
; Mrs. Mulch: Liz Smith.
MPAA rating G, running time 80 minutes.