There’s something bunny going on
IN THIS Claymation spectacular, Wallace and Gromit have leapt gracefully from living room to silver screen. The two most loveable, goofy characters in movie history, Wallace and Gromit are back with their amazing chemistry in this caper from the creators of the hugely popular, Chicken Run.
The winning comic partnership of the cheese chomping inventor, Wallace, (Sallis) and his faithful, yet shrewd canine companion Gromit (one of the great silent actors) have been living together like bachelor brothers, sharing meals at the same table, since 1989’s A Grand Day Out.
They live in a world that is quintessentially northern English. It’s as whimsical as a tea cosy, with harrumphing locals, terraced cottages and harvest festivals. On this occasion, they have started an humane pest control business, Anti-Pesto, specialising in protecting their neighbours’ gardens from a plague of ludicrously cute, floppy eared, veg munching bunnies, who are threatening the villagers’ prized entries into the town’s Giant Vegetable Competition.
When bells ring among the bank of alarms in Wallace and Gromit’s home, Anti-Pesto makes speedy, effective house calls all over the neighbourhood, brilliantly controlling raiding rabbits, until Wallace’s grand plans get the pair into another mess.
They are facing a bit of a storage problem – they’re running out of cages to keep all the captured rabbits in. Wallace thinks that maybe he can re-educate the rabbits into thinking they don’t want vegetables. Under the light of a full moon he hooks up his rabbit brainwashing device, but it goes horribly wrong and he accidentally creates a monster, the Were-Rabbit.
At first, Wallace is sure the problem can be handled with Anti-Pesto, and, with the competition only days away, he hopes to save the day and win the heart of the hostess Lady Tottington (Bonham-Carter). However, Wallace gets a little too close to the bucktoothed beastie and winds up hopping mad. Meanwhile, haughty huntsman Victor Quartermaine (Fiennes) is hot on the bunny’s trail with a golden bullet. He wants to marry Tottington, bleed her bank account dry and be the local hero. As usual it’s left to Gromit, he must hunt down this giant floppy eared menace and save the day.
Even though Nick Park’s Aardman Animation is a major player in Hollywood these days, nothing has changed. The film retains the home spun quality of garage animation, the sight of thumbprints on Gromit’s nose only enhances the appeal.
In this, the very first vegetarian horror movie, the brilliant offbeat jokes and sheer good humour, coupled with the olde-worlde English village setting have remoulded the horror genre into something delightfully quaint. This new genre perfectly encapsulated in the image of a demon rabbit sporting a knitted vest, and the shadow of floppy ears sweeping ominously across cobbled streets. As he did with WWII caper Chicken Run, Park, Britains very own authentic animation genius takes the Hollywood blockbuster to an understated yet nevertheless absurd extreme.
Adding to a sense of the cosy and familiar is Peter Sallis who has voiced Wallace from the beginning. His dulcet Yorkshire tones are key to the inventor’s endearingly wholesome, dippy nature in the face of nuttiness, while Ralph Fiennes steps in to create the over-the-top, anti-Wallace villain, Victor Quartermaine. Ironically, given the A-list cast, it’s Gromit who soundlessly steals the show with an extraordinary range of despairing and deadpan expressions.
Park wonderfully alludes to great moments from classic horror movies like Frankenstein and King Kong. He recreates typical fright scenes with dramatic action occurring in the rain and characters disappearing into the darkness as terror is about to strike, but does it all with traditional stop-motion techniques. Technically, it’s one of the best films in this style you will ever see, highlighted by the fact that it took filmmakers five years to create.
If there was a responsible way to make another Wallace and Gromit movie in less time, that would be great, but a rare pair such as this should not be rushed. They must be nurtured with love and care, just like a prizewinning pumpkin.