Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)
Starring: Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Kay, Nicholas Smith, Liz Smith
Directed by: Steve Box and Nick Park
Before the release of this film, I was completely unaware of the world of Wallace & Gromit, having never seen their Oscar-winning shorts. I'm not sure I had ever even heard of the characters before the movie was released. But the movie has gotten universal praise, and since I could borrow it for free, I decided to check it out.
Which was a wise decision on my part, because the movie is absolutely brilliant. First off, Wallace & Gromit is an artistic marvel, employing plasticine models and stop-motion photography to animate the characters and scenes. The process is painstaking, with the studio that created the duo, Aardman, averaging about three seconds of film per day, taking five years to finish the 85 minute feature film. The result is quite breathtaking, with characters conveying real emotion with their movements and dimensions, and the hand-painted sets jumping off the screen. Given that almost everything seen on screen was created by sculptors and set decorators, from the characters, to the props, to the sets, I think this film was robbed of an art direction Oscar nomination. There was minimal use of CGI in the film, to fill in smoke and populate a few scenes with bunnies, but otherwise, everything else was created with models in the real world. When you think about how meticulous and time-consuming the process involved in animating each scene, it's impossible not to be impressed, especially since a lot of the scenes are well populated with characters.
But impressive craftsmanship and beautiful animation do not a movie make, as most recent non-Pixar animated movies have proven. For a movie to be truly special, they need to present engaging characters in an entertaining and well-developed story. I'm happy to say that The Curse of the Were-Rabbit gives both in excess. Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis), an absent-minded inventor who loves cheese is a delightfully naïve and pleasant character, going about his day trying to humanly capture the rabbits who threaten the town's competitive vegetable-growing lifestyles. Gromit is his loyal companion, doing his best to keep Wallace out of trouble, minding his owner's diet, and growing his own prized melon. He also gets all the film's best lines.
The world in which these characters exist is delightfully imaginative, as Wallace has devised all sorts of gadgets and machines to help make their lives easier. This gives the animators plenty of chances to flaunt their stuff, while throwing in little in-jokes and sight gags that don't detract from the story. The creativity of the film is fantastic, capturing the imagination of the viewer and leaving us wanting more.
Beyond the impressive animation, the wonderful characters, and sublime creativity, the true hightlight of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the humour of the film. It is belly-laugh-out-loud funny, matching 2005's Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year-Old Virgin joke for joke as one of the year's funniest films, albeit a very different style of comedy. Some of the jokes are pretty sly, designed for the adults in the audience, with plenty of parody of other movies throughout. It's a whip-smart comedy, providing fun and laughs for all age groups.
In short, while I may have come into the film a Wallace & Gromit neophyte, by the time it finished, I became a big fan. I'll be picking up the DVD featuring their previous shorts in the near future, and may work on convincing my wife to name our future dog Gromit. Maybe I'll pick up some Wensleydale cheese as well. Too bad I'll probably have to wait another 5-7 years for a sequel.
Finding Nemo (2003)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
The Incredibles (2004)