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Moriarty Howls At The Moon With WALLACE & GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT!!

Published at: Oct. 5, 2005, 4:07 p.m. CST by staff

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

Nick Park, you beautiful lunatic, congratulations. That Oscar’s going to look simply cracking on your mantelpiece next February.

Earlier today, my wife and I took Toshi to see his first movie in the theater. I figured CORPSE BRIDE has been out a few weeks now, and the first show at the Chinese would be relatively empty, so we wouldn’t have to worry about disturbing anyone even if the baby got fussy for a moment. It was indeed almost completely empty, but I shouldn’t have worried about it. Toshi was captivated be the first two-thirds of the film, sitting quietly on my wife’s lap and watching the screen the entire time. Then, obviously overstimulated, he fell asleep for the last stretch. As much as I loved visiting the sets for CORPSE BRIDE, I have to say that my final verdict on the film is that it’s beautiful but a little thin. It’s a film you glide along the surface of with almost nothing that draws you in any further. There's one scene that seems to hint at real emotion, but that's it. It’s a technical marvel, but I’m not sure I detected a beating heart in there anywhere.

But with WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, Dreamworks has got something that’s got a heart and soul, a magnificent work of passion that is hilariously funny. It’s easily the best animated film they’ve ever released as a company, and it might well be one of the best films overall that they’ve released. Nick Park has wanted to make a feature-length Wallace and Gromit film for many years, and he’s got to be thrilled with the end result. As much as I adore THE WRONG TROUSERS, this film trumps it in every way, which is great news for fans of the characters, and which I hope will mean that this becomes a monster runaway hit this fall. As much as THE WRONG TROUSERS paid tribute to certain types of noir and suspense films, WERE-RABBIT is a love letter to horror films, packing in any number of loving homages even as it tells an original story that could only come from the unusual comic minds of the Aardman studios family.

Let’s back up a moment, though. Let’s assume you’ve never seen a Wallace & Gromit short. Although there’s definitely a passionate cult following, it’s not like these characters have ever really broken through and dominated the mainstream. My wife had never even heard of them until I got the DVD that Dreamworks put out a few weeks ago, and the cover really didn’t make her eager to dive in and see what I was so excited about. I did end up showing her THE WRONG TROUSERS the night before we went to see the film, and she liked it well enough. I think the quintessential Englishness of it all sort of baffled her, though. The important question for Dreamworks is how well the film will play to the uninitiated.

The all-media was last Saturday morning at 10:00 in Westwood, and the place was packed with families. There was such amazing energy in that place by the time the film ended that I think it’s safe to say you don’t need any introduction to these characters except what you’ll see in the film, and it works for adults and children in equal measure. It’s remarkably sophisticated writing for a kid’s film, but that’s probably because Nick Park and his co-writers Bob Baker, Steve Box, and Mark Burton aim different jokes at different members of the audience, making sure to keep them coming fast and furious so that no one ever has a chance to disengage. I’ve hammered other films and TV shows in the past for being non-stop pop culture references (SHREK and FAMILY GUY spring to mind), and WALLACE & GROMIT is a good example of the difference between using those sorts of references as a crutch to disguise the fact that you don’t really have anything to say and using them to add a bit of texture to something that already works completely on its own merits. Yes, you can point at moments in this film and play the “name that reference” game, but everything always comes back to the characters and your investment in them, which is the way it has to be if your film’s going to endure at all.

Peter Sallis returns as the voice of Wallace, and he continues his exemplary work from the short films. There’s such a sweet eccentricity to his performance that you can’t really describe it to anyone. He’s done a lot of live-action work over the years, but I couldn’t tell you what he looks like. I think I prefer just knowing him as the voice of Wallace, because it makes the character more special, more unique.

There are some movie star voices in this film, but they blend in quite nicely. Ralph Fiennes cuts loose as Victor Quartermaine, the bad guy of the film, in a way that we never see him do in live-action, and Helena Bonham-Carter is much more colorful here than in CORPSE BRIDE as Lady Tottingham, a perfect romantic possibility for Wallace. Neither one of them overpowers the film, thankfully, and as a result, these characters fit perfectly into the ongoing world that the short films already established. That’s one of the things I love about W&G films... every time, we get new supporting characters who fill out the world in different ways. There was the vending machine robot with dreams of skiing in the first film, Feathers McGraw in THE WRONG TROUSERS, Wendolene and Shaun the Sheep in A CLOSE SHAVE. I think people are going to fall in love with Hutch the Rabbit this time, and there’s also the Were-Rabbit, a rich comic creation that really pays off.

The story is simple enough. Lady Tottingham’s family has hosted a Giant Vegetable competition once a year for generations, and the day is approaching for the latest one. All the locals have enlisted the services of Wallace and Gromit, who run a humane pest control service. They catch and keep all the rabbits who threaten the local gardens, and there are some great jokes early on as they try to manage the huge number of rabbits in their home. When Wallace gets the idea to try a brand-new brain control device as a way of programming the rabbits to not like vegetables, things kick into high gear, and circumstances quickly, hilariously, spiral out of control.

I’m reluctant to go into what it was that delighted me so much, since a lot of the charm of the film comes in the ways it tackles your funnybone from unexpected angles. Some of the jokes are adult, but in a way that’s charming rather than dirty. And anyone worried that the film would wallow in potty humor based on the one belch in the trailer shouldn’t worry. That’s the one big bodily function joke, and it’s followed by a line of dialogue that spins it ina whole different way. Technically, the film is gorgeous, and for fans of stop-motion’s history, you’ll be pleased to see the occasional fingerprint show up on the characters, reminiscent of the way Kong’s fur looked in the ’33 original. It’s a charming reminder that these films are, indeed, hand-crafted.

I can’t really call this one of the year’s big surprises, since Nick Park has been so consistent in crafting these films so far, but I am relieved to see how right he got it. It’s a delight from beginning to end, and you should stay all the way through the credits for one of the funniest little easter egg jokes I’ve seen in a while. Great stuff. Highly, highly recommended.

Gotta get busy on all my other overdue articles, so until then...

"Moriarty" out.





Readers Talkback

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  • Oct. 5, 2005, 4:14 p.m. CST

    Wallace and Friend

    by vinceklortho

    Heard nothing but good things coming from this movie. It's expected, these guys actually put effort in the things they do. Plan on catching this this weekend with all of the families. Good review.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 4:21 p.m. CST

    Wallace & Gromit v. Chevron Cars

    by strongbadmonkey

    I want an all out battle to the death, no holds barred, ultimate fighting free for all.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 4:28 p.m. CST

    And as for the Family Guy pop-culture jab...

    by strongbadmonkey

    If Moriarty is looking for something with "texture" why the hell is he looking for it in the Family Guy? The point of that isn't to provide in-depth life altering moments that alter someone's life. It's there to make you laugh, which is succeeds in week after week. As for the shit that is Shrek... well is right on with that. But if he is looking for more texture, he should help his wife change more of his son's diapers. Rock Rock On.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 4:29 p.m. CST

    uhhh...

    by strongbadmonkey

    as opposed to life altering moments that don't later one's life... yaaaa.... sorry about the redundancy. I suck. I admit it. Screw all y'all before you say it.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 4:46 p.m. CST

    Sinister penguins

    by Banky the Hack

    If Nick Park can make a penguin with absolutely no facial expressions excepting blinking seem more malevolent and 3-dimensional than Palpatine in the prequels, then I am agog to think of how awesome this movie's gonna be.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 4:56 p.m. CST

    I didn't know there was a W&G movie called A CLEAN SHAVE....

    by togmeister

    Think you mean A CLOSE SHAVE mate. 'Not even Wensleydale?'

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 4:58 p.m. CST

    HONK! IF YOU THINK THIS MOVIE IS WORTH 10 BUCKS!

    by jig98

    i just watched chicken run 2 hours and i'm still amazed at the things these guys can do with clay. i saw the wallace and gromit shorts on video just before chicken run came out {june 23rd 2000} and i really enjoyed the wrong trousers and the close shave but i have to say a grand day out looked like someone was smoking weed putting it together. i'm excited for this movie and i'm not exactly sure if i'm seeing it but it's worth 10 bucks that's for sure. "crackers!"

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 5:10 p.m. CST

    Yippee - W&G are back!

    by Thorfin

    I'm excited to see this - and Moriarty is right about Family Guy and Shrek. Too many pop references and I just can't get invested in any of the characters.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 5:14 p.m. CST

    CLEAN SHAVE

    by drew mcweeny

    D'oh! You're right, Togmeister. I fixed it, but thanks for pointing it out.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 5:23 p.m. CST

    W & G in "Clean Shaven"

    by keepcoolbutcare

    Now that would be the most disturbing.Movie.EVER!!! Nice to hear Park knocked one out of the...oh that was too easy.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 5:24 p.m. CST

    Music, Mori?

    by Koola_Norway

    So - how's the music in this one? Any nice homage-work there? I can't wait for the film, know it'll be hilarious. All Aardmans work has got me gasping for breath while laughing.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 5:31 p.m. CST

    Koola_Norway

    by drew mcweeny

    The score's good. It's from the Hans Zimmer Factory, and they make sure to give the W&G theme a prominent position in the film, enough so that my wife spent the rest of the day humming it. The horror-movie score they use is a really nice pastiche of different types of film music, without being a reference to any one score.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 5:43 p.m. CST

    Good to know that Wallace and Gromit are back.

    by DerLanghaarige

    Oh, and I saw Harry a few days ago in a documetary about Aardman studios.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 5:55 p.m. CST

    schwiggity shwa

    by luckylindy

    i cant wait to see this one...its been on my must see list since i heard about it...no doubt park is friggin genius

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 6:13 p.m. CST

    I've been a fan for years.

    by jrbarker

    I love W&G and Creture Comforts. Not a big fan of Chicken Run, but I can appreciate the craft that goes into it.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 6:33 p.m. CST

    100% at Rotten Tomatoes

    by Rupee88

    I hope this film succeeds financially...I love the short films they've already done.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 6:44 p.m. CST

    Hans Zimmer Factory... LOL

    by El Scorcho

    Since I'm coming home from school this weekend for break,I was gonna take my 10-year-old cousin to Corpse Bride or Serenity (both of which I've seen), but after this review, I may change my plans... This sounds wonderful; I can only hope it's way better than the trailer (which kinda annoyed me, the 20 times I've seen it, lol).

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 6:50 p.m. CST

    El Scorcho...

    by drew mcweeny

    ... if it helps you make your mind up at all, I hated the trailer for the film. I didn't think it was funny, and I hated the PRICE IS RIGHT music and I just didn't think it had any of the charm of the short films. The trailer lies, though. It's a great movie.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 6:54 p.m. CST

    jesus

    by MisterCynic

    i cant believe you named your kid that. good god, thats a dedicated geek right there.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 7:01 p.m. CST

    will the teen audience flock to this?

    by Rupee88

    I think this film will probably appeal to all ages, but I wonder if it will seem too much like a "kiddie movie" for the huge teen dating audience to give it a chance? Hopefully, word of mouth will win them over in the first two or three weeks.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 7:16 p.m. CST

    Thanks for the answer, M.

    by Koola_Norway

    The amount of composers credited in IMDb kind of freaks me out. (Love Julian Notts W&G-theme though.) Hans Zimmer Factory freaks me out. But I trust you, and can NOT wait for this one. I wonder when it'll be released in Istanbul. I wonder how they'll discuss sequels if it does spectacular business. There's no way to produce 'fast sequels' for this kind of movie.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 8:21 p.m. CST

    It would be hard when your dealing with clay-motion to make many

    by seppukudkurosawa

    because by the time you've animated the scene, the damn thing you were talking about has dropped out of the bottom of the cult radar.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 8:30 p.m. CST

    That sounds vaguely disturbing

    by seppukudkurosawa

    a fingerprint appearing on the character? If I caught-out something like that I'd spend the whole movie in a fever staring at Gromit's head waiting for one to pop-up. Wouldn't it be amazing though, if one of the animators were involved in a murder case, but thought they'd gotten away with it scot free until Scotland Yard watched this Wallace and Gromit flic, where they noticed that the little smudge on Wallace's forehead was in fact the imprint of the Midlands Maniac...? Trust me, someone make a movie out of that and you'll bring in the bucks. Remember to give me my share of the royalties though.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 8:35 p.m. CST

    Seppuwhatshisname - that reminds me of the scene in "Cracker" wh

    by Vim Fuego

    What is Jimmy Mcgovern doing lately? The last thing a remember watching of his was that "Docudrama" about Hillsborough. That was a hard thing to watch.

  • It's a good job she's got looks.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 8:55 p.m. CST

    Thank you Moriarty...

    by El Scorcho

    I will now definitely be taking my cousin to see this on Saturday, and hopefully we'll both enjoy it.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 9:03 p.m. CST

    exactly!

    by blackthought

    what america needs....qaulity films, the more the better!

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 9:49 p.m. CST

    Nick Park/Aardman = quality

    by Ace Hunter

    Creature Comforts, the W & G shorts, Chicken Run. Besides great visually, they tell great stories. A feat matched only by the geniuses at Pixar. Shrek? Gimme a break. Poor animation and poor writing. Thanks to Aardman and Pixar, feature animation lives. Disney, take notes. I still have faith 2D animation will return to its former glory.

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 10:11 p.m. CST

    Oh my gosh!

    by Jaka

    Is a W&G movie going to make money!? That would be awesome!

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 10:18 p.m. CST

    Thank the lord that this is good!

    by performingmonkey

    I have been worried that this would be way to 'quaint' to work as a big screen adventure, but then I remember Chicken Run which was great. Wallace and Gromit are extremely well known in the UK, despite them only appearing in 3 30 minute shorts. This is a surefire hit, but I'm pleased that they've made sure it's a good movie. I suppose if you're gonna spend years animating it you don't want all that work to produce a shit film with a shit script. And yes, the penguin in The Wrong Trousers kicks Sidious's a-hole!!

  • Oct. 5, 2005, 11:41 p.m. CST

    Great film.

    by docfalken

    I was lucky enough to see it last night with my kids. The best part is that so many of the jokes are over their heads and directed just at us adults. But the kids are going to laugh when we laugh anyway. It was a great time and hopefully the box office will reward Aardman so they keep on keeping on.

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 12:48 a.m. CST

    So is Nick Park returning to THE TORTOISE & THE HARE movie he pu

    by FrankDrebin

    There are a couple of Wallace & Gromit video games that I may just have to check out. I can just picture Gromit with an RPG...

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 3:13 a.m. CST

    Peter Sallis

    by xwoof

    For anyone that doesn't know . . . Peter Sallis is 84 and still starring in Last of the Summer Wine on British TV, the longest running TV comedy in the world. Its been on for about thirty years, I think. And I have to admit - it's not very good.

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 6:45 a.m. CST

    Don't forget, Sallis was also a nasty piece of work in one o

    by Big_Bubbaloola

    can't remember what it's called though. He and his satan worshipping mates sacrifice someone over Drac's grave yadayadayada. It must be said thought that W&G are huge here in the UK. I don't know one person who hates the Aardman stuff. I personally have got a kick outta their animation all the way back to when they did the 'Morph' skit's on Tony Hart's art progs......ah them were the days!

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 6:52 a.m. CST

    Sallis was in 'Taste the Blood of Dracula' fact fans....

    by Big_Bubbaloola

    ....also he was in the Hammer 'classic' Curse of the Werewolf (The Wolfman (USA)). And let's not forget he voiced Rat in The Wind in the Willows along with David Jason. Oh and talking about things british, why no obit for the late and very great Ronnie Barker?? We get obscure US actors, why not have major UK actors as well.

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 7:30 a.m. CST

    Last of the summer wine

    by Dodgy

    was a classic... But like anything else that goes on way too long (Allo Allo) it lapsed into a parody of itself and became scarily unfunny. Scary how much compo's son looks like him though...

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 7:41 a.m. CST

    That 'vending machine' in 'A Grand Day Out'...

    by Blabbermouse

    was actually a stove, Moriarty. Not that I grew up there, but evidently back in the day you had to drop a shilling in them every now & then to keep the gas coming. Any Brits out there that can back me up on this one?

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 5:29 p.m. CST

    Sallis, Last of the Summer Wine, Holmfirth and W&G

    by NervousPete

    The very early Last of the Summer Wine was actually quite funny and intriguing, with Compo actually behaving more like Gollum - one scene in the first series he actually just leaps up and tries to bite this bloke's neck, for no reason, screaming all the while. And they knock an awful lot of beer back, in one scene I counted three pints each downed. ............................. Of course, three series in it begins its fast slide into complete cosy terribleness. ............................... I actually grew up in Holmfirth where LOSW was filmed. A lovely village, and all the nicer as the shaky, unfunny BBC series meant that there were so many tourists that there were around a dozen more pubs than there should have been. What fun we had directing Texan tourists to Nora Batty's, only not really, and sending them over hill and under dale - all for a handsome tip while the object of their desires lay a scant 100 yards away. What boyish larks! So even though the show is terrible, I have no hard feelings. As for Wallace & Gromitt - I simply cannot wait for this film! Oh, and hello Dixon and Mel if you're reading this - now clean your house you lazy buggers!

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 5:53 p.m. CST

    People shouldn't bring babies to movies

    by barryap

    Jackass.

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 6:10 p.m. CST

    Baby

    by Thorfin

    I took a baby to a matinee once - it went fine. You just have to show some judgment and go when the baby is going to sleep for awhile... and go during a time most people won't go.

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 7:07 p.m. CST

    Hey Mori...

    by vinceklortho

    When't the "Good Night and Good Luck" review coming up? Did you see it? It's coming out this weekend in NY/LA and it's getting strait up great reviews. I'm dying to see it. What did you think?

  • Oct. 6, 2005, 11:23 p.m. CST

    Rupee88

    by Barry Egan

    Why do you want the teen crowd to go? Fuck them! They ruin the filmgoing experience.

  • Oct. 7, 2005, 12:50 a.m. CST

    Barryap

    by drew mcweeny

    That's why we picked the screening we did. There was no one else there. Literally. I could have stood in my seat and screamed and it wouldn't have made any difference. The movie's been out for three weeks. We didn't go opening night. So jackass yourself, jackass.

  • Oct. 7, 2005, 12:51 a.m. CST

    Vinceklortho

    by drew mcweeny

    I'm working on my GOOD NIGHT & GOOD LUCK review right now.

  • ...Nick Park is always referencing it in his animation. The Magic Roundabout movie is often acknowledged as his main influence. It's been my favorite since I was about 4 years old and has always been my favorite animated movie. Until yesterday. If you look at my posts from the last couple of years I've predicted this will be the biggest grossing (and most rewarding) film of recent years. I bet that come Christmas (when I bet it will still be in the top ten) and the Oscars I'll be proved right. I bet the DVD sales go through the roof.

  • yes, and this has been done to death but kids love the spider man charector and everything about him and his world. but the 370 mil grossing film is no exception! the back of the dvd even said "not intended for small children" i'm still puzzled to this very day.

  • Oct. 9, 2005, 9 a.m. CST

    Yes, it's good!

    by orson

    W&G is a terrific movie which doesn't disappoint. After the sou-less, sudio-dictated Chiken Run, I had my fears about W&G - but this time it looks like Aardman were not interfered with. Obviously, there are issues with stretching out a 20-minute domestic-scale animation to feature length. But Aardman have risen to the challenge and have not betrayed the original concept.

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