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WALLACE AND GROMIT
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Review by Gordon Justesen

Voices: Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter
Directors: Nick Park, Steve Box
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Dreamworks
Features: See Review
Length: 85 Minutes
Release Date: February 7, 2006

"CRACKING!"

Film ****

Of all the family-oriented films to come out last year, as well as films in general, it was hard to match the charm and whimsical wit of a cheese-loving inventor and his highly intelligent canine companion. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was a much anticipated release for several reasons. It was the long awaited follow up from director Nick Park and the animators of 2000’s Chicken Run, but more importantly, millions of worldwide fans had been waiting for the characters of Wallace and Gromit to get their first big screen adventure.

The two characters have been beloved by fans for more than a decade, and up until now they’ve appeared in only three short cartoons. The first was 1989’s A Grand Day Out, followed by 1993’s The Wrong Trousers and 1995’s A Close Shave. Each of these shorts was nominated by the Academy for Best Animated Short, and two even won the award. It was clear that creator Nick Park found it most appropriate to take his prized characters even further.

And the result, I think, is one of the finest animated features ever made. It’s also a film that can be equally loved by kids and adults. Adults, especially, will be greatly entertained. Despite the G rating, there is a certain dark edge to most of the humor in the film.

The story follows the exploits of Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis), a dedicated inventor who’s absolutely bonkers about cheese, and his loyal dog Gromit, who never speaks but conveys so much more by his priceless expressions. Gromit is the brains of the two, having to constantly look after his faithful owner in numerous ways.

The two have their own business, called Anti-Pesto. They rid of the town’s unwanted animal interference. However, they don’t exterminate what they catch. Instead, through Wallace’s inventions, create ways for their animal captives to enjoy their activities without bringing slight harm to others. Lately, the town seems to have a problem with an increasing rabbit population. As Wallace points out, "They’re multiplying like…well, rabbits."

Their latest case lands them at the doorstep of Lady Tottington (voiced by Helen Bonham Carter), who’s about to hold her family’s 517th Annual Giant Vegetable Festival. Gromit himself is looking to participate in the festival with a huge watermelon he’s been tending to in his garden. Tottington is experiencing a slight rabbit infestation and requesting Wallace and Gromit’s secure methods in order to benefit the festival.

But the infestation isn’t the only problem they have to deal with. Wallace becomes quite smitten with Lady Tottington, who turns out to have a snobby suitor named Lord Victor Quartermaine (voiced with over-the-top hilarity by Ralph Fiennes). He’s a gun enthusiast who feels that the only logical way to rid the rabbit problem is by the barrel.

The conflict of the story comes into place when a large object is seen attacking vegetable gardens at night. It is soon dubbed by the town The Were-Rabbit. This monstrosity attacks at night, like a werewolf, only it’s vegetables instead of humans that are the victims. The town looks to its Anti-Pesto team, but it looks to be Wallace and Gromit’s biggest challenge yet.

Our two heroes have quite a bit to deal with. The Were-Rabbit attacks even have them scratching their heads. And as if that weren’t enough, the sniveling Quartermaine tries to sabotage their work at every step, since he becomes intensely jealous once Wallace starts eyeing Lady Tottington.

And I have left out a secret concerning the Were-Rabbit which I feel is best kept hidden until you watch the movie.

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is easily the most high-spirited animated adventure to come out last year. It’s also one of the funniest in general. There are plentiful physical pratfalls and nice touches in the dialogue that will keep you laughing hysterically. Yes, I would be quick to rank this among the likes of Wedding Crashers and The 40-Year Old Virgin as one of 2005’s funniest films. The climatic scene alone, where the Were-Rabbit attacks the vegetable festival produces many remarkable moments, both funny and magical.

And if anything, this film illustrates the value of alternate ways of animation. Today’s market seems to be in high demand for computer animated releases. They’re always fun to watch, but director/creator Nick Park’s superb claymation style is just as dazzling to look at, and is quite artful. Some scenes even add a touch of CGI, which bring even more magic to certain shots. So with this film, you’re somewhat getting the best of both worlds.

If you’ve had yet to become acquainted with the world of Wallace & Gromit, this is the perfect opportunity to discover two of the most delightful characters in the history of animation. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a newfound animated classic that is destined to become treasured by audiences for years and years to come, and it deserves to be, too.

Video ****

The animated films to emerge from Dreamworks have led to an abundance of fantastic looking DVD presentations, and this release is far from being any sort of exception. The eye-catching animated world of Wallace & Gromit has been transferred most beautifully to DVD. The images are endlessly clear and crisp; not the sort of feedback you would expect from a film with such an animation style, but that is exactly what is delivered here. Colors are a mighty bonus, too, as they are pivotal in nearly every shot. Without question, a DMC Awards candidate for Best Animated Release!

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix boasts as lively a presentation as you’ll ever find for an animated film. Julian Nott’s priceless score to the film is delivered in amazing form. The film is also quite frequent with action sequences that really give the sound system a good working. Dialogue is delivered in terrifically clarity. As far as animated films go, this is one of the best to ever surface on the format in this department.

Features ****

Dreamworks has never been known to leave an animated release empty on extras, and Wallace & Gromit The Curse of the Were-Rabbit perfectly illustrates this point, with extras that fans everywhere will appreciate. Included is commentary with directors Nick Park and Steve Box and Deleted Scenes with optional commentary. Also featured are a Behind the Scenes featurette, as well as the featurettes "How to Build a Bunny" and "How Wallace & Gromit Went to Hollywood". Plus, there’s a tour of Aardman Claymation Studios, a bonus Aardman animated short titled, "Stage Fright", and even some clay activities, printables and games.

Summary:

It was only a matter of time before Wallace & Gromit had their first animated feature release, and the result couldn’t be any more brilliant. The Curse of The Were-Rabbit is the most deserving of the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and the DVD release is a definitive must have disc for both families and long time fans.

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