© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Kay, Nicholas Smith, Liz Smith
Directors: Steve Box, Nick Park
Writers: Bob Baker, Steve Box, Mark Burton, Nick Park
Distributor: DreamWorks SKG
MPAA Rating: G
Running time: 85 minutes
Script – 8
Performance – 8
Direction – 9
Animation – 9
Editing – 8
Production – 10
Total Score – 8.8 out of 10
The team behind CHICKEN RUN and the WALLACE & GROMIT shorts is at it again, this time offering us a feature-length animation starring our beloved cheese-loving inventor and his silent dog.
Wallace (Sallis) and Gromit are a good team. While Wallace dreams up new inventions to make life easier for everyone including himself, Gromit takes care of everything including making breakfast and cleaning the house. Not to mention tending to their beautiful vegetable garden, in preparation for the Giant Vegetable Competition. Business is booming for their company Anti-Pesto, too, because there’s a persistent pest problem involving free-roaming rabbits. Lady Tottington (Carter) believes in getting rid of the problem humanely, despite the objection of her fiancé Victor (Fiennes), a gun-crazed hunter. Wallace handles it beautifully with his new invention, the “Bunny-Vac.” Using another new contraption that alters the minds, Wallace successfully retrains the rabbits to dislike vegetables. Problem solved.
Or so they thought. Suddenly, the town is terrorized by a giant rabbit that sabotages their vegetable gardens. Wallace and Gromit set out to find and capture the creature, while Victor insists on shooting it. As the competition draws close, the townsfolk become anxious and paranoid while Gromit discovers the awful truth about the creature. Wallace and Gromit must race against time to prevent Victor from killing the creature and save the Giant Vegetable Competition.
The voice talents serve the film well. Sallis’s voice IS Wallace. He captures the neurotic, kind and clueless nature of the absentminded inventor so well that it’s hard to imagine anyone else voicing that character. Gromit is, of course, always silent, but every arch of the brow or squint of the eye conveys so much with this character. Carter (CORPSE BRIDE) lends her effervescent, joyous voice to Lady Tottington beautifully. In fact, I think her performance here is so marvelous that it dwarfs her performance in that “other” claymation feature. Fiennes (CONSTANT GARDENER) is delightfully menacing as the self-absorbed Victor. It also helps that none of the lead talents look anything like their onscreen characters. The rest of the cast is simply amazing.
The writers, including directors Steve Box and Nick Park (CHICKEN RUN), have written a wonderful script. It’s imaginative, witty, and filled with colorful characters and interesting plot twists. Granted, it isn't difficult to figure out where the story is heading, but how the story gets to the end is a joyous ride. They give the characters wonderful, funny dialogue (and for Gromit, a lot of opportunities to emote). The story is straightforward but very smart and “logical,” given the genre.
It took five years for Box and Park to make CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, and the effort pays off. The animation is not as slick as in CHICKEN RUN, but that’s exactly the charm of Wallace and Gromit, down to the occasional fingerprints and cheeky character designs. It’s not to say it’s a poor production – far from it. The sets and props and characters and animation are top-notch. There’s absolutely no doubt, when watching the film, that these are clay figures, real miniature sets and backdrops. The amazing thing, though, is that after a while, we do forget that we are watching an animation. These characters become real to us, and we care about them. Yes, especially the silent beagle named Gromit.