Rating: (5 out of 5)


Director:
Nick Park, Steve Box

Producer: Claire Jennings, Peter Lord, Nick Park, Carla Shelley, David Sproxton

Screenwriter: Bob Baker, Steve Box, Mark Burton, Nick Park

Stars: Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Kay, Nicholas Smith, Liz Smith

MPAA Rating: G


There are roughly 255 solid laughs in the full-length animated feature Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Not that I counted each one, but the movie runs 85 minutes and feels like it crams at least three great gags into every 60-second span. You'll need observant eyes, or multiple viewings, to catch each witty aside weaved through the assorted scenes.

We've come to expect nothing less from Nick Park and his beloved claymation heroes. The innovative animator enjoys a near-perfect Academy Award batting average – three Oscars and four nominations, though in 1991 he was nominated twice in the same category and therefore could only take home one trophy.

Park's Wallace & Gromit shorts brilliantly spoof proven film genres using the invigorating but time-consuming stop-motion animation techniques seen in Chicken Run, which he also directed. In previous adventures, oblivious inventor Wallace (coyly voiced by Peter Sallis) and his mute pooch Gromit journeyed to the moon and thwarted a sinister penguin. It's only natural that their next endeavor would be in the realm of home security.

The duo's new outfit, dubbed Anti-Pesto, is largely employed to keep pesky rabbits from sinking their teeth into the town's prized vegetables before an annual crop contest. A high-profile client, Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter), prefers Anti-Pesto's humane tactics over that of brutish hunter Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes). But when Wallace attempts to pacify the bunnies using his untested brainwave device, he unleashes a vegetarian beast with an insatiable hunger.

Smart, fast, and incredibly funny, Curse informs as it entertains. There are ample discussion-worthy lessons for young adults starting with the reality that do-gooders sometime cause harm despite noble intentions. Wallace thinks he's helping, but he creates a larger mess and must be bailed out (once again) by the ever-resourceful Gromit. My favorite, though, is the undeniable fear of becoming that which we fear the most, a trap that swallows Wallace… again, despite his noble intentions (an ongoing theme).

The Curse screenplay is blessed with sharp wit – Wallace describes himself as "just crackers about cheese" – that extends to the script's bits and animated sequences. Park and his stop-motion team have composed a rich, realized, and exquisite animated environment that would fit in any Bela Lugosi creature feature. They even beat Peter Jackson to the punch by slipping in a creative King Kong tribute.

A certified hit, Curse holds something for everyone. The premise contains suspense, the animation amazes, and the conclusion zooms by with a string of breakneck action scenarios Jerry Bruckheimer will likely steal for his next summer blockbuster. In between, we score yet another love interest for Wallace. Who knew the balding, rotund, and lovable cheesehead had such a way with the ladies?

5out of 5

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