Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit is an exquisitely animated failure.  It is one of the best looking features I’ve seen in a while but it’s also an inconsistent disappointment.
 
Wallace is a bald, cheese-obsessed inventor who runs his own animal control business.  Gromit is his silent, remarkably reliable canine sidekick.  (He can drive a car, make breakfast and read the newspaper.  Take that, Benji!)  They spend much of their time tracking down pesky rabbits who frequently invade backyard gardens.  They’re so good at their job they generate much respect from the neighbourhood and even make the front page of the local paper.
 
The English locals are a little on edge because the 512th Annual Giant Vegetable Competition is just days away.  As long as those furry pests can be successfully contained by the locals, there shouldn’t be any difficulties.
 
Wallace develops a crush on his latest client, Lady Tottington (charmingly voiced by Helena Bonham-Carter), and the feeling is mutual.  It’s her family bloodline that’s been running the annual GVC (complete with carnival rides and fireworks) for centuries.  However, a whole wack of rabbits have invaded her castle grounds and she needs some assistance.  Before Wallace & Gromit can get there to solve the problem, a mustachioed, big-haired phony named Victor Quartermaine (voice of Ralph Fiennes) arrives first.  Tottington wants nothing to do with him.  Victor is only after her money.  He’s also a big game hunter and while she wants the rabbits removed from her property, she doesn’t want any harm to come to them.  Fortunately, our heroes arrive to resolve the matter and unintentionally expose Victor’s strangely convincing toupee.  Too bad it’s one of many gags that fall flat.
 
But Wallace is too ambitious for his own good.  His latest invention gets him into big-time trouble.  Without giving too much away (for those who still haven’t seen this film), a giant, mysterious monster is rampaging through the neighbourhood devouring these enormous vegetables.  The townspeople are not amused and want it out of their lives (and gardens) for good.  It’s up to our animal control guys to save the day and preserve the annual fair.
 
The spirit of claymation is kept very much alive with this film.  You feel the love and hard work in every frame.  Take a look at the scene where that cop is whistling late at night.  Or the underground car chase sequence.  Or the "dogfight" during the last act.  These are beautifully rendered moments.
 
So, why doesn’t it work as a whole?  Well, for starters, that villain is pretty lame.  Ralph Fiennes is a great actor but I just didn’t hate him in this role.  Victor Quartermaine is a useless character who takes up way too much screen time.  His canine sidekick doesn’t fare much better (but he does inspire one very big laugh during the "dogfight" sequence).
 
More importantly, the comic tone of the piece is uneven.  It never gets on a roll the way it should.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are a number of funny moments here, but they never add up to an unstoppable laugh riot.  It’s spotty at best.
 
The quiet romance between Wallace and Lady Tottington is cute and convincing, but it’s underdeveloped.  It doesn’t help that Quartermaine’s presence takes away from this much more enjoyable storyline.  He’s always getting in the way.
 
Finally, I just didn’t have that much affection for the characters overall.  Unlike the Toy Story and Shrek films, you never develop that special connection, that unshakeable bond that instantaneously happens when a captivated movie audience falls in love with charming characters.  You never hate the heroes in Wallace & Gromit.  They’re too nice to warrant our loathing.  You just never worry about them the way you do about Woody and his fellow toys, and Shrek and his beloved Princess Fiona.  Those feelings are absent here.
 
The movie is technically well made and contains some engaging action sequences.  A good plot twist pops up in the middle, and there are a number of good zingers and sight gags.  But Wallace & Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit is missing that special connection with the characters and consistent laughs.  Without those important qualities, it’s merely eye candy without heart.  What a shame.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, April 13, 2007
10:37 p.m.
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Published in: on April 13, 2007 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

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