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One could go on and on about the painstaking process of claymation that goes into producing Nick Park and Aardman Animation's Wallace & Gromit films. The animated duo, an eccentric, cheese-loving inventor and his faithful dog, are now appearing in their first feature-length adventure, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
The film took five years to make, with a crew of 250 generating only about 100 seconds of footage per week at the height of production. There were 43 versions of the Gromit model, and 35 of Wallace, the latter fitted with 12 different mouth shapes that had to be carefully removed and replaced to produce the effect of speaking.
As impressive as the behind-the-scenes details of a Wallace & Gromit production can be, it's what happens on-screen that ultimately makes the pair so winning. Their three short films are available in several DVD collections, and each features a remarkable combination of whimsy, subtle humor, innocence, and retro-technical wizardry.
Wallace & Gromit's highly anticipated feature debut does not disappoint. Curse of the Were-Rabbit (rated G) is delightful from start to finish, introducing some charming new characters to the series and mostly remaining true to the tone of Mr. Park's beloved short films.
Forever embarking on slightly batty but clever new ventures, Wallace now runs a rabbit-removal service called Anti-Pesto. His pest-protection skills are in high demand leading up to a grand vegetable competition to be held in his small village home. Wallace is especially pleased to be called upon by Lady Tottington (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter), local aristocracy and sponsor of the vegetable competition, to rid her garden of the offending vermin.
Wallace's delightfully complicated, humane bunny services are challenged when what appears to be an enormous rabbit begins terrorizing the village and Lady Tottington's suitor, Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), offers a much more violent solution. As usual, the clever, eternally peeved Gromit must extricate the common-sense-challenged Wallace from predicaments mostly of his own creation.
The only drawback is the noticeable increase in modestly off-color humor. One would suspect that the brief moments of sexual innuendo are the grubby fingerprints of DreamWorks Animation (they co-produced with Aardman) and co-screenwriter Mark Burton (Madagascar). Also, both the local vicar and his church don't fare too well in Were-Rabbit's horror-spoof plot. Some of this may be related to the classic films at which Mr. Park pokes fun, but the more gratuitous digs at Christian symbols seem out of place.