There are so many reasons to love writer-director Nick Park’s dim, gentle, cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his patient, practical, and loyal dog, Gromit. First, they are brilliant at every kind of funny, from sophisticated wit to sly parody to outrageous puns, to this-is-what-pause-buttons-on-DVD-players-are-made for detail and fall-down, lose-the-toupee farce. Second, their adventures are hilarious and genuinely exciting. And third, W&G themselves and their world are more alive and expressive and endearing than most “real life” human actors filming on “real life” locations. (Did I forget to mention that they are made out of clay and their movies are filmed in painstaking one-frame-at-a-time, one-or-two-seconds-a-day stop motion photography?)
Perhaps the best reason to love them is that they are irresistibly quirky, completely un-focus grouped, the plot never driven by product placement or marketing synergies (though the new movie does have some fast food and other tie-ins). In an era of loud, homogenized, generic, undistinguished and indistinguishable films, and CGI perfection, this is unquestionably the work of one adorably demented sensibility, with an engagingly handmade feel. It has a cheerfully, sometimes opaque, understated Britishness that doesn’t really translate (though they did redub one word — what are called “marrows” in England are referred to as “melons” in this release). And it has wildly funny tributes to a range of classic movies. It is fabulously funny, endlessly inventive, and utterly charming.
In three short films (two won Oscars; the third was nominated but lost to another one of Park’s movies), Wallace and Gromit have gone to the moon (in search of cheese, of course), rented a room to a diabolical jewel thief who happens to be a penguin, and outsmarted a sheep-rustling dog. Wallace creates remarkable contraptions (like dog-walking automatic pants) that work very well (his rocket does take them to the moon), but always create terrible problems and only Gromit can save the day. He’s a bit like a middle-class Jeeves to Wallace’s Bertie.
In their first full-length feature, Wallace and Gromit have a successful humane pest-control business serving the local gardeners, who have the very British passion for both vegetable-growing. Just about everyone in town is growing something to enter into the upcoming competition, so the prospect of a rabbit invasion is frenzy-making all around.
Fortunately, Wallace and Gromit and their company, Anti-Pesto, are on the case. At any hour of the day or night, if a rabbit appears in a garden, an alarm goes off and our heroes, using Wallace’s inventions, are almost-instantly on the job. Moments later, the rabbits are humanely extracted via Wallace’s invention. The tender-hearted W&G end up taking them all home and feeding them. The customers are very happy, especially Lady Campanula Tottington (voice of Helena Bonham Carter). But her suitor, Victor Quartermaine (voice of Ralph Fiennes), is furious and jealous. He wants to hunt the rabbits. And he wants to marry Lady Tottington.
Wallace decides that if he comes up with a machine to brainwash the bunnies so that they don’t want to eat veggies anymore, that will solve all their problems. Unfortunately, there’s a disturbance and things don’t go exactly the way Wallace planned and soon a terrifying, vegetable-loving creature is causing “califlower carnage.”
The feature length suits Wallace and Gromit perfectly. The new characters are brilliantly imagined, especially Lady Tottington and Quartermaine who both sport a W&G first — lips. Bonham Carter and Fiennes, clearly enjoying themselves, provide silly toff accents that are part Ealing comedy and part Monty Python. The result is hilarious, thrilling, and utterly engaging. If it takes five years to make one of these, I hope they’re already four years into the next one.
Parents should know that although this movie is rated G, some scenes of peril may be too intense for younger children. One character is a hunter who uses guns. There is brief crude humor, including a bare behind.
Families who see this movie should talk about which of Wallace’s inventions they might like to try or what he should make next. And they might like to try to make a claymation film (Park began making films at home when he was 12) or maybe grow their own vegetables!
Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Park’s other movies, including A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave, and the series Creature Comforts. They may also enjoy learning about Rube Goldberg, whose hilariously complicated contraptions would fit right into Wallace’s workshop.