it could be bunnies

Finally, I got around to watching Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I had high expectations and I wasn’t let down; the film is utterly charming.

I’ve been a big Wallace and Gromit fan since I saw The Wrong Trousers. I’ve always been entranced by Nick Park’s ability to convey emotion via plasticine models. The Penguin in The Wrong Trousers is evil, yet all it does is blink! Gromit can go from looking sad to scared with a subtle tweak of his unibrow.

Park’s films are enchanting, entertaining and good natured even when there’s tension in the scenes. It’s a very British kind of humour: cups of tea, cheese and the faithful hound. Yet, it’s never patronising. Park celebrates the ordinary pleasures of life, but injects a surreal and imaginative streak into those situations. Wallace is the big dreamer, and Gromit is the pragmatist. Together they are a wonderful combination of quirky and grounded.

I was struck in the opening sequence at how effortlessly Park describes the relationship between Wallace and Gromit entirely without dialogue. The camera pans past a series of photographs that show the evolution of their relationship: Gromit as a pup with a younger Wallace celebrating Gromit’s birthday; Gromit graduating from Dogwart’s University; Wallace and Gromit together; Wallace salivating over a chunk of cheese; Wallace consuming the whole thing in a massive gulp to Gromit’s irritation; two separate pictures of the equally annoyed pair; and a reconciliation in the final photograph.

This sequence takes less than a minute and immediately we know these characters. Gromit is the smart one, restrained and faithful; Wallace loves cheese (and Gromit), and has impaired willpower. More importantly, an argument does not separate them for long. Even the wallpaper and decorations that hang around the photographs informs us about the world of Wallace and Gromit. Everything in this sequence has a bearing on the film. It’s economical and humourous storytelling.

I love the visual gags and comic timing displayed in the film. In particular the moment when the vicious dog Philip and Gromit are struggling in a coin-operated airplane. The plane stalls, and the combatants break from the struggle as Gromit searches for change. He comes up empty, Philip makes an exasperated sigh, and from nowhere pulls out a dainty beaded purse, from which he extracts the right change. Wallace gives him a strange look when he sees the purse, and Philip returns a slightly embarrassed smile. Once the airplane is working again they get back to fighting. These little moments are hilarious, but also establish a particular type of humour that marks the Wallace and Gromit films.

The film does judder in a couple of places, and Wallace’s recovery at the end pushes the envelope of credibility, but the film is so effortlessly good-humoured and charming that you forgive those moments.

And the bunnies. How cute were they? I love the way every character in any scene is doing something that suits their nature. The bunnies are always moving, scratching, or up to mischief. I like how they are characterised as pests, but also as cute scamps. They are not evil, but entirely driven by their urges to consume vegetables. No wonder Wallace succumbs to his affliction.

I had a big grin on my face after watching The Curse of the Were-Rabbit–it’s a nice experience considering my reaction to many of the films I watch these days.