Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

wererabbit-poster“I haven’t tested it yet, but it should be perfectly safe. Just a bit of harmless brain alteration, that’s all.”

The Scoop: 2005 G, and directed by Steve Box & Nick Park and starring Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, and Helena Bonham Carter

Tagline: Wallace=Master, Gromit=Mind

Summary Capsule: Man and man’s best friend save a town from a giant rabbit that’s eating all the vegetables. Did I mention I’m almost thirty years old?

PoolMan’s Rating: It’s not necessary to be a British children’s theater fanatic to work here, but it helps.

PoolMan’s Review: This is one of those reviews where I know full well that the moment it hits Justin’s in-bin, two things will happen.

1) His heart will stop, because I write at a glacial pace these days and submit reviews in accordance with phases of the moon, and…

2) He will roll his eyes and begin yet another email about how why can’t I just be more like Shalen and review thirty year old zombie movies like a good cult writer?

Neither reaction is entirely unjustified, of course, but regardless, I stand by this one. Wallace and Gromit is a great — yes, great — movie. It’s one of these beautiful flicks that will appeal to children everywhere for its bright colours and goofy gags, all the while appealing to the adults who pay for these forays into movieland with subtler humour, double entendres, and excellently memorable characters. This is the kind of family movie I’d love to see far, far more of. Damn you, Pokemon!

The setup is very simple. Our heroes, Wallace and his dog, Gromit, have set up a pest control agency (Anti-Pesto… ba da DUM!) to safeguard the town’s vegetable crop while their owners sleep. The annual giant veggie competition is in just four days, and these people go loony for a nice oversized carrot (how Freudian!). Anyways, things are going along just swimmingly as Wallace and Gromit capture all the rabbits that have run rampant over the town. They’re humane pest controllers, so rather than kill them, they just trap them and feed them back at their house. But technology-crazy Wallace gets the bright idea that if he could just manipulate the wee bunnies’ minds into not craving veggies any more, he could set them free instead of keeping them. However, this leads to him inadvertently turning one of the rabbits in his pens into… something else. People start sighting a giant were-rabbit running loose and eating everything in sight, calling for Anti-Pesto to do something before the competition is ruined. At the same time, the nature loving noblewoman hosting the event, Lady Tottington, considers whether to let her psychotic hunter boyfriend Victor Quartermaine shoot the creature, loath though she is to harm any living creature.

If it seems a silly little story, don’t worry. It is. But it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it! CotWR is told in a fun, upbeat tone that never, ever talks down to its young audience, and at the same time manages to keep the grownups rolling in the aisles. It moves at a nice brisk pace, never slows down, and stays hilarious from end to end.

A lot of this is in the voice talent. Peter Sallis’ Wallace is a great mix of dumb and smart, goofy and gallant, a great kids’ hero. And the guest talent in this movie is to die for. Helena Bonham-Carter supplies the voice of Lady Tottington, the slightly absent socialite who loves all things natural. And handing in what may be the comedic performance of his career, Ralph Fiennes as the murderous hunter Victor Quartermaine is a full-out, over the top, laugh riot. You could see this movie a hundred times and never guess it was him voicing Victor, and he absolutely steals the show. Perfection in casting (of course, Fiennes’ very presence in this movie all but guaranteed that my wife had to buy it). Of course, Gromit, the ever-silent dog does a fantastic job of conveying his every emotion as the eternally frustrated “pet”. He’s actually the smartest character on screen, but his mute status requires that everything he thinks has to be conveyed by his actions, really almost making this his movie. That a character who never says anything should be so much fun is truly remarkable.

This movie won the Oscar last year for Best Animated Feature, and it’s an award I can really get behind. Done almost entirely in claymation with some post production effects, this movie is a labour of love. It took somewhere in the neighbourhood of five years to film, and every moment of it shows. There are so many small touches that I’m still picking up new little jokes and background gags after probably 7 or 8 viewings. It’s really that good.

If you have kids and you’re tired of them seeing over violent or under intelligent movies, this is for you. This movie is for every fan of the Muppets. This movie is for every fan of Bugs Bunny. This movie is for me. I even think it might be for you. Please, reward the efforts of these dedicated filmmakers and go check it out today, because we could really use a kids’ entertainer who appreciates that you don’t have to make it stupid to make it appeal to children, and that visual jokes about “melons” are really, really funny.

Justin’s Rating: Brilliant!

Justin’s Review: Let me ask you this: when is the last time you had an absolute great movie watching experience? No, I’m not talking about seeing a great flick or when you got “lucky” as your date let you “stretch” your arms to put one around their “shoulder”. My message, brothers and sisters, concerns the combination of a good movie with a great audience, one which shoots electric excitement right into your veins — pow! An experience that more than makes up for countless trips to your local theater which might as well been entitled “Feeding time at the monkey corral.”

My time came a few weeks ago when I was plumb out of ideas for that night’s youth group. Toward the end of the school year, I (like teachers, I presume) started to feel the burn of a long year of ideas, games and teaching, and yearned for an easier night. When that feelings comes upon these tired bones, my mouth immediately forms “Movie Night!” Thus, the popcorn was popped, the cinema room in our church prepped, and the lights dimmed.

Our selection for that night was Wallace and Gromit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Harmless kiddy fare, I thought, and all I need to do is make sure the teens don’t try to hold a contest to see how much popcorn they could shove up their nose before bloody boogers came out.

As the movie started, the usual small chit-chat continued. “Silence!” I commanded. “Don’t make me get the super-soaker!” (I sometimes have to resort to unorthodox crowd control measures with junior high students.) But I needn’t have bothered; they were quiet soon enough.

As an archaic throwback to the days of claymation (think: Gumby), Wallace and Gromit lack all of the sophistication of today’s shiny CGI animated flicks, with their bullet-time ingenuity and hypnotic flashing colors that make one kid in twenty start spasming on the floor. Wallace and Gromit aren’t even sophisticated animal kung-fu fighters — they’re a goofy British bald guy in suspenders and his always-quiet dog. There’s nothing that really screams “cool” from the W&G films, but as my teens soon found out, “cool” is nothing when faced with a clearance sale of “high-falootin’ funny”.

Charming in a dorky way and cleverly humorous, Wallace and Gromit started to bring out the laughs in the room by about minute five, and they pretty much didn’t stop from there. This wasn’t your typical comedy where the audience politely chuckles at two or three things to justify why they bought the ticket in the first place; this was a room of entertainment-saturated teenagers who didn’t have to appease anyone but themselves, and they laughed their guts out. They found the silly slapstick to be a riot, and totally got the more subtle gags that many filmmakers today would never expect a young teenage demographic to be capable of understanding. The fools.

By the grand finale of the movie, even the adults in the room were giggling like little kids, and there wasn’t a face without a broad smile. A day afterwards, one of those adults wrote me an e-mail saying that this was one of the most fun nights they’ve had in a long time. I had to agree.

In an age where our entertainment has to be so sophisticated as to render us incapable of ever leaving our living room sofa, I must simply praise and adore people like Nick Parks who almost deliberately return to simpler times in order to prove to us that new doesn’t always equal better, and older can often be far superior all around.

Sure, I could tell you all about this film’s plot and jokes and whatnot, but I thought that the most ringing endorsement I could think of was that 35 teenagers and adults, packed into a small room on a spring night, brought the house down with unashamed hysterical laughter.

All those bunnies! So cute, I just can't watch!

All those bunnies! So cute, I just can’t watch!

Intermission!

  • This movie took about five years to film in stop motion animation. It required 2.8 tons of Plasticine in 42 colors, 1000 baby-wipes per week to wipe it off animators’ fingers, and 44 pounds of glue per month to secure the sets.
  • This was the first feature length Wallace and Gromit movie. Previous shorts included A Close Shave, A Grand Day Out, Cracking Contraptions, and (probably most famously) The Wrong Trousers. Creator Nick Park’s other full length movie is Chicken Run.
  • Pansy spray! Ah!
  • Middle Age Spread sitting on the counter.
  • All the cheese-titled books on Wallace’s secret shelf.
  • The stained glass window with the angels blowing their trumpets and all the humans plugging their ears.
  • Austin Powers-esque placement of the melons in Totty’s garden.
  • Totty accidentally clapping her hands together with the butterfly in the way.
  • That Ralph Fiennes really does have a hilariously versatile voice?
  • Rabbits always say “whee!” when doing fun things.
  • Hutch only speaks in lines uttered by Wallace either earlier in the film or from other Wallace and Gromit features.
  • After the were-rabbit picks up Totty, one of the villagers screams the Wilhelm.
  • The barbershop in town is called Close Shave, an homage to Nick Park’s previous W&G short, A Close Shave.
  • The author’s name on the front of the monster encyclopedia that Reverend Hedges shows to Quartermaine is “Claude Savagely”.
  • The ominous organ music in the church. Possibly the best gag in the movie.
  • The kid in the green hood fainting at the fair.
  • Lightning crashes can be very distracting for conversation!
  • The portraits on the wall do a great job of explaining the friendship of Wallace and Gromit, and quite funny to boot.
  • The black rabbit on Victor’s head as he stalks off the field.
  • “May contain nuts”
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? You can watch even more cute bunnies wave as the credits go by. Who wouldn’t stay for that? The final line in the credits is “We would like to stress that no animals were harmed during the making of this film”, and a rabbit hits its head on the text and falls.

Groovy Quotes

PC McIntosh: [the townspeople are discussing the attack on their vegetables] If you ask me, this was arson.
Townspeople: Gasp!
PC McIntosh: Yeah. Someone arsin’ around!

Hutch: Aww. The bounce has gone from his bungee.

Wallace: It’s time we tried my latest invention, the Mind Manipulation-omatic. It extracts unwanted thoughts and desires. I haven’t tested it yet, but it should be perfectly safe. Just a bit of harmless brain alteration, that’s all.

[Quartermaine's hairpiece has been sucked up in the Bunvacc]
Lord Victor Quartermaine: I want…
[lowers voice]
Lord Victor Quartermaine: … toupée, please.
Wallace: Oh, grand. We take cheques or cash.
Lord Victor Quartermaine: Toupée, you idiot! My hair is in your machine.
Wallace: Oh, no, it’s only rabbits in there. The hare, I think you’ll find, is a much larger mammal.

Reverend Clement Hedges: Hello? Is anyone there?
[Were-Rabbit lets out an enormous belch]
Reverend Clement Hedges: Mrs. Mulch?

Reverend Clement Hedges: I have a hunch this is going to be a night to remember!
Mr. Growbag (the hunchback): I just have a hunch.

[discussing how to kill the were-rabbit]
Lord Victor Quartermaine: What kind of bullet?
Reverend Clement Hedges: A bullet… of pure gold.
Lord Victor Quartermaine: Gold?
Reverend Clement Hedges: Yes. 24… “carrots”!

[Victor rams a pitchfork into Lady Tottington's hair]
Lord Victor Quartermaine: Hmm. I rather like your hair pinned back.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The Wallace and Gromit short films
  • Chicken Run
  • The Corpse Bride
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