With Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, animator Nick Park continues his widely acclaimed and award winning claymation series he started over sixteen years ago. His short films have garnered him an astounding 3 Oscars out of 4 nominations, but this time, he's teaming up with Dreamworks Animation SKG to make this the first feature-length movie for Wallace the boneheaded inventor and his tongue-tied, four-legged friend.
Those who've seen Chicken Run will immediately recognize Park's signature brand of "putty-mation" but unlike that film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a bit more juvenile with its humor making it entertaining for the little ones, but less so for their adult companions. Chicken Run had something for everyone with its wide range of dynamic characters and funny situational humor, but Curse aims much lower and will unfortunately hit its target. Lovers of PBS cartoons will like it, Fans of Finding Nemo won't.
The annual Giant Vegetable Competition is approaching. But a mysterious, vegetable-eating beast roams the neighborhood, threatening to eat everyone's potential prize-winning produce. So naturally, Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) and Gromit, owners of the Anti-Pesto Exterminator Service get the call to capture the beast and save this year's event.
The round-headed, Chiclet-toothed Wallace and floppy-eared Gromit live alone in a gadget filled house reminiscent of Doc Brown's from Back to the Future. Homemade contraptions do everything from automatically pouring their morning coffee to dropping them through a chute and into their pre-started work truck. Today Wallace is working on some sort of brain wave swapping device that inadvertently creates the giant were-rabbit. The message of humane extermination is not delivered lightly here as Wallace and Gromit cage every bunny they capture and house them in their basement. Wallace's competition, and the film's arch villain, is the gun-wielding Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) who would rather shoot the varmints first and ask questions later. Both Wallace and Victor have been called to the manor of the regal Lady Campanula Tottington (Helen Bonham Carter) to rid her property of pesky vegetable-eating rabbits. But both find themselves vying for her affection instead.
It's hard not to like the film as its kind-heartedness and sweet messages are always evident. Its clever puns and funny wordplays are more groan inducing than laugh-out-loud funny however, and probably need a second viewing for complete appreciation. There are numerous moments where the story seems as simple and childish as an episode of Teletubbies, especially when Gromit is alone on screen. Since he can't speak, his mannerisms must cue the viewer. And for the most part they succeed. But his squeaks, grunts and guttural moans coupled with his Mr. Bill-like facial features seem more appropriate as a puppet segment on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood than as a full-length feature movie.
At the film's center, is a feel-good, heart-warming story but it never really explores any real depth of emotion. The characters are inoffensive and easy enough to like, yet it will have a bit of trouble finding an audience. There aren't enough clever pop-culture references and cagey quips to entertain anyone above 6 years of age and the story lacks that sense of adventure and heroism that endeared Chicken Run to so many. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit will most assuredly be loved by critics and aficionados, but children will have trouble attaching to it. James & the Giant Peach was a critical success too, but I've yet to find a child that really enjoys watching it and I'm afraid The Curse will suffer a similar fate. Co-writer Steve Box admits that the biggest challenge of taking the Wallace & Gromit concept from 30 minutes to 85 minutes was finding a story that could be expanded to fill the extra run time. They borrow concepts and visuals from the great old Universal horror movies, but unlike those films, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit will never become a classic.
Screen formats: Widescreen 1.85:1
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
Language and Sound: English: Dolby Digital 5.1; English: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo; French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Other Features: Color; interactive menus; scene access.
* Commentary: Cracking Commentary with co-writers and co-directors Nick Park and Steve Box.
* Deleted Scenes
o How Wallace & Gromit Went to Hollywood
o Behind the Scenes
o A Day in the Life at Aardman
o How to Build a Bunny
* Galleries - The Family Album - still image and storyboard gallery
* Shorts - Cracking Contraptions
Number of discs: - 1 - Keepcase Packaging.
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