In our digital age, let’s celebrate Wallace and Gromit—small lumps of plasticine with big, big hearts.
In their first feature-length outing, Wallace, the cheese-mad inventor in a green cardy, and his faithful dog Gromit (both voiced by Peter Sallis), are busy with their latest venture as humane pest controllers. They are charged with protecting the town’s prize vegetables from rabbit mischief ahead of the annual Giant Vegetable Competition (Gromit himself has a prodigious marrow in the works). However, part of Wallace’s madcap solution—brainwashing the captured rabbits so that they no longer like vegetables—backfires, and he unintentionally creates the Were-Rabbit, a rampaging flop-eared beast with a terrible thirst for carrot juice.
A risk of the full-length film is that the two heroes—one of whom doesn’t speak—can’t always hold centerstage. But Nick Park crosses the gulf between the small and big screens with a raft of terrific characters, from the slimy, egocentric and nasty Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes, The Constant Gardener) and his snaggle-toothed gun-dog, to Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham-Carter, Corpse Bride), the aristocratic patron of the Vegetable Competition. In fact, everyone from the veg-fixated Yorkshire townsfolk to the precocious rabbits, contributes to the overall masterpiece. The only flaw, perhaps, is a loss of pace in the film’s slightly weird mid-section. But given that Wallace and Gromit were chased around the moon by a coin-operated oven in their first picture, the odd touch of weirdness is probably par for the course.
While a few of The Curse’s puns and sight gags miss their marks, the vast majority score, and the script proves itself just as pliant as the characters. Spoofing a host of horror films from King Kong to Frankenstein and even Tremors, the movie is a cavalcade of quick-fire laughs, as Wallace and Gromit battle to save the Were-Rabbit from a grisly fate at the end of Quartermaine’s shotgun. There are simply too many moments to mention—but Gromit’s dogfight with Quartermaine’s gun-dog using merry-go-round planes, Wallace’s humane rabbit catcher and his library of cheese-related classics are among the picks.
Best of all is that Wallace and Gromit emerge from their dalliance with Hollywood, a far scarier beast than any Were-Rabbit, with their souls intact.