Hello, what’s this we have here, Gromit?
An entire 85 minutes of plasticine joy in which a cheese-loving eccentric inventor and his smarter-than-his-owner dog try to save their town’s treasured giant vegetables from the chompers of a famished population of rabbits -“ by the most humane of means, of course.
I’ve been in love with Wallace and Gromit ever since we saw A Grand Day Out 15 years ago. By the time two more animated shorts The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave were released, Nick Park and his plasticine creations had earned themselves not only an Academy Award but a permanent and affectionate place in cartoon history. And I’m happy to report the endearing duo’s feature debut is every bit as fantastic as what we’d expect from Aardman Animations studios and creators of Chicken Run.
In Curse, the entrepreneurial Wallace and Gromit are running Anti-Pesto -“ a sort of veggie protection service-cum-animal rescue. It is just days before their small town’s annual Giant Vegetable Competition and the locals are a little tense about the midnight feasters. But when alarm bells toll in the wee hours, Wallace and Gromit come skittling out of their shed in their Anti-Pesto van (with the HOP2IT number plate) to save the day -“ or night. The fellows are local heroes until something a little bigger than the Easter bunny hops into town.
Kids will enjoy The Curse of the Were-Rabbit but this is really a cartoon for grown-ups. Not that the humour is all that adult, but it is sophisticated, witty and clever and will ring bells for anyone who has spent their lives watching late night horror films from the black and white era and re-runs of Batman.
The filmmakers also enjoy drawing all sorts of cinematic bows. Not only does Curse play around with the werewolf genre but it comes with its own hoot-and-a-half King Kong moment. The quirky detail in Phil Lewis’s set design is a great platform for the myriad of jokes that pop out at every camera angle and plot twist.
Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes come along for the ride with Peter Sallis (the voice of Wallace) as the buck toothed Lady Tottington, hostess of the Giant Vegetable Competition, and the dastardly Victor Quartermaine -“ Totties’ slimy suitor.
There’s nothing to not like here. Nick Park and co-director Steve Box’s five years of elbow grease on The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is worth every fingerprint on the plasticine and every stop-motion frame.