From the Archive — Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

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The only thing I’ll add to the below review is a revised version of the due-credit notification that original served as the opening line. It was a friend of mine — whose footprint on social media is stealthy enough that I’ll not cite them further — initially made the spot-on observation that I used to kick off my take on the feature debut of the greatest creations ever to come out of Aardman Animations. 

There are way, way, way too many puns in Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. In bringing the stellar Aardman Animations creations from the brisk efficiency of thirty-minute shorts to an 85-minute feature, Nick Park and company have seemingly packed in an endless stream of comedic homonyms to help fill in the spare room. The puns are the Styrofoam peanuts that keep the precious vase that is the Wallace and Gromit storyline safe in the box. Problem is, the vase seems a bit more chipped and worn than usual this time around.

There are actually many elements lifted directly from the last short, 1995’s A Close Shave: a romantic interest for Wallace, a rival hound to try to play alpha dog to Gromit and a animal species getting a fresh spin through the Aardmaninator which adds protruding roundness to the eyes and width to the mouth. On that last point, this time it is indeed rabbits that are added to the zoo, and they prove to be every bit as cute as Shaun, the beloved tuft of cotton from Shave. The new film even manages to get Gromit into the cockpit of an small airplane again, replicating the climax of the previous short.

All that may contribute to the new film feeling a little lackluster. Or it could simply be that Wallace and Gromit adventures are best served by a quick running time, their trials and tribulations pared down to the essentials. The more time spent with the townspeople worrying about their endangered produce, or the flirtation between Wallace and his new potential ladylove, or establishing the villainous bonafides of the bad guy, the more the film settles into a slow idle rather than the sort of breakneck inspiration that marked the shorts, or even the first Aardman feature, the splendid Chicken Run. Even when the inevitable final sequence gets rolling, the action never completely kicks into high gear. It always seems a little too controlled, a little too by-the-numbers. We have time to catch our breath and the film flags because of it.

This is a lot of griping about something that is finally an okay movie. There’s still charm a-plenty to be found in these sweet, simple characters. As before, the addled enthusiasm of Wallace mismatches nicely with the carefully maintained dignity of Gromit (and I have a new special place in my heart for the briefly glimpsed image of Gromit as a puppy). And if the film suffers from comparison with other Aardman triumphs it prospers in the wake of the manic Madagascar cast-off that Dreamworks has been vicious enough to attach to the front of the film.

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