Monday, October 31, 2005

every dog has his day...or in this case four, or five

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Directed by: Nick Park and Steve Box
Rating: as delicious as aged gouda

i haven't seen an eyebrow this expressive since jack nicholson's. with a mere twitch, a lilting at different angles, this eyebrow can evince pain, frustration, amusement, happiness; any of the attendant emotions of the human psyche. oddly though, this eyebrow, this majestic purveyor of feeling...belongs to a dog. not just any ordinary dog mind you, but gromit, loyal companion and irrepressible savior of wallace, professional inventor and amateur cheese lover.
after two academy award winning short films starring the duo, director nick park offers the first full-length story with his two most famous creations. the story begins with wallace and gromit being applauded for their efforts at humane pest control, as all the rabbits they capture eating the local's vegetables are housed in pens beneath their house. when an experiment to rid the rabbits of their near unsatiable craving for vegetables goes awry though, the dreaded 'were-rabbit' of lore appears and our two intrepid heroes must capture the beast (humanely, of course) before lady tottington (voiced by helena bonham carter) begins her annual big vegetable contest and the evil victor quartermaine (voiced by ralph fiennes) can take care of the problem in a much more bloody fashion.
park's and co-director steve box present an antiquated england, where all the immediate fears and trappings of current society have no place. the people go about their simple lives, and their greatest fear is whether their vegetables will grow large enough to capture the 'golden carrot' at the vegetable contest. painstakingly crafted and detailed, park's and his team's rendering of this world is full of charm and whimsy.
the real treat though is the interaction between the two principles. next in a long line of bumbling leading men and their inimitable, indispensable sidekicks that goes all the way back to p.g. wodehouse's bertie wooster and jeeves, wallace and gromit are the most endearing, unique heroes to grace the screen in years. filled with moments that are funny for both adults and children, park's allows the story to explain the nature of their relationship in a manner that most cartoons are unaccustomed to. holding back from the in your face emotional blast of most american made animation, 'wallace and gromit' allows the world of the characters and the current of their day-to-day existence to quitely convey the depth and strength of their bond. wallace and gromit are not just master and dog, but are equal partners (even if one is silent) in their business ventures, and in their relationship with one another (the dog does the driving.)
finally, park's fills the screen with set pieces and animation that are astounding regardless of whether they're handmade or not. beginning with an opening montage that is an homage to charlie chaplin's 'city lights' as the two heroes are woken, washed and dressed through a complicated rube goldberg machine and dropped down on to the breakfast table, through allusions and tributes to the great lon chaney, boris karloff monster movies of the 30's and 40's, and ending with a hilarious nod to king kong (also a tip of the hat to the the first famous piece of stop motion animation, which parks has mastered in all its intricacy and beauty,) 'wallace and gromit: the curse of the were-rabbit' is absolutely delightful, engaging filmmaking that reminds us of the first rule of true friendship: you stick with them, even if they drive you crazy sometimes.


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