Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Now Playing: W&G: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Confession time: I'd never seen a Wallace & Grommit short prior to seeing the full-length feature Curse of the Were-Rabbit and am now kicking myself for it. The film itself is a loving tribute to the horror classics of yester-year that starred Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Bela Lugosi and that passion for the subject matter is evident in every frame. The film is stop-motion claymation which is astonishing when you look at everything Aardman (the studio) had to animate. The coffee sloshing around is what floored me, but the rapid-fire editing and subtle character nuances especially knocked me off my feet.

Right from the start, we meet up with Wallace and Gromit, pest exterminators in a small English town. Wallace is a slightly daft inventor deeply in love with cheese, while Gromit is his silent and possibly more intelligent dog/partner. Together, they rid the small countryside of rabbit infestations in order to protect everyone's produce for the annual vegetable fair. Then they get the call of a lifetime when they're invited to the mansion of Lady Campanula Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) who wants a them to remove the hundreds of rabbits on her lawn.

Where the plot kicks in is once Tottington's evil suiter Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) shows up, and Wallace tries to brainwash the bunnies into not wanting to eat vegetables all the time. The results are inspired hilarity as the community is torn asunder every full moon (which somehow lasts for three days in a row) by the Were-Rabbit, a giant bundle of teeth and fury that devours every carrot in sight.

Fiennes in particular tears into his role with relish and is clearly having a field day as the villain. Quartermaine has no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, yet Fiennes' brilliance makes him more than a one-note bad guy. Carter also is funny as the well-meaning though slightly daft Tottington who just wants everyone, human and bunny alike, to get along. The film builds up to a chaotic climax that I still have trouble believing was claymation.

Oh, and this film has a wickedly ribald sense of humor not to mention each frame is layered with gags. Some are on labels, others are where people stand, and practically all of it is staggeringly funny. If you haven't seen this one then by all means check it out, especially if you're a fan of the old Universal monster movies.

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