Written on: 20/11/2005 by Timix1 (33 reviews written)
Charming characters. Clever visual gags. Old-fashioned stop-motion animation that is a refreshing break from the overly pristine-looking computer-animated flicks of the day.
A thin plot that would have been better served by a 30-minute short as opposed to a full-length feature.
Anybody who has seen the three original animated shorts starring the cheese-loving Wallace and his silent - but considerably smarter - pooch Gromit can't help but be charmed by their antics. The characters' genuine likeability and the ingenious stop-motion claymation that brought them to life endeared them to millions around the world. Inevitably, Hollywood (in the form of Dreamworks' wunderkind Jeffrey Katzenberg) lured W&G creator Nick Park into producing big-screen fare, and the British animator's first project, 2000's CHICKEN RUN, was an instant homerun. Featuring hilarious sight gags and clever nods to prison-camp breakout films like STALAG 17 and THE GREAT ESCAPE, RUN was essentially a WWII prisoner drama re-imagined with incarcerated poultry plotting their escape from evil Mrs. Tweedy's lethal pie-making contraption. Bolstered by that film's success, Park put aside plans for a proposed adaptation of 'The Tortoise And The Hare' and instead focused on what his fans coveted all along: a feature-length Wallace & Gromit adventure.
The pair's long-awaited return in THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT is undoubtedly a charmer, but stretched out over 85 minutes their big-screen debut falls a bit flat, I hate to say. It's not that the characters have lost any of their appeal; Wallace remains the well-meaning but often clueless inventor, while loyal Gromit's expressive eyes remain a portal to his soul, conveying a myriad of emotions with the mere flinch of his brow. Supporting players voiced by the likes of Ralph Fiennes (as the villainous Victor Quartermaine) and Helena Bonham Carter (as the hysterically toothsome Lady Tottington) fit comfortably in the W&G universe, and some of Park's patented blink-and-you-miss-them sight gags are on full display (one of my favorites: an early breakfast scene featuring a condiment called "Middle Age Spread").
Still, the plot - involving the twosome's rabbit-catching business and their mission to catch a dreaded Were Rabbit who's wreaking havoc with the townspeople's beloved gardens - is too slowly-paced, only truly coming to life during its climactic final act. What worked so well in 20-to-30 minute intervals in shorts like A CLOSE SHAVE and THE WRONG TROUSERS - a nimble mix of raucous slapstick and sweeter, quieter moments that helped define the characters - doesn't translate as successfully as I'd hoped. In the pair's earlier episodes, their small-scale adventures took on a bigger life within the context of a short film; looking back at those cartoons (if I may call them that), not a single frame is wasted. Here, the folksy charm of that W&G universe results in occasional lulls that slow down the fun. Frankly, the results here have only heightened my concerns about a proposed SIMPSONS movie; the old adage regarding great things coming in small packages is one that Matt Groening might want to take closer to heart.
All the same, THE CURSE OF THE WERE RABBIT is a must-see for fans. The film, like the shorts that precede it, succeeds at putting a delightful spin on British eccentricity (with the Brits' obsession with gardening at the forefront here). Wallace and Gromit themselves, painstakingly brought back to life by a group of devoted animators (look closely and you'll spy their fingerprints all over the plasticine figures), remain a joy to behold. Good-natured and humane at their core, it's impossible to dislike this duo. My advice to the ingenious Nick Park? Forget trying to make them into larger-than-life Disneyesque icons and go back to chronicling their day-to-day exploits in shorter intervals. Sometimes, 'less' truly is 'more'.