Nick Park has done it again. First with the original three short films (each more amusing and precious than the other), then with Chicken Run in 2002. Now, finally the time has come for the famous duo to claim the big screen. For those who don’t like animation (or have something against claymation), Wallace and Gromit are an English man and his dog, the former is an aspiring inventor, the latter is the savior who comes and repairs whatever damage is done by a particularly unstable invention. They mean good, but sometimes get carried away with their inventions. They are a great pair of characters, an odd couple of sorts, and it is their relationship that works so well in this film – they are inseparable, and yet, very different to the point of clashing at every turn. The film is not only a showcase of hard work and determination (as you know, stop-motion films are shot frame-by-frame), it’s also a testament to a solid script, love of characters, and a phenomenal support cast. You can’t help but love this little town and its characters – it feels so real, and yet cartoonish at the same time.
If you’re familiar with the short films, this movie follows exactly the same way – a simple story, a few unusual inventions and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of sight gags. Except this time everything is bigger – bigger cast, more involving soundtrack, bigger laughs, and of course, a bigger menace. In the short films the duo dealt with a cunning penguin at some point. This time their nemesis is a were-rabbit. OK, let me explain. Wallace and Gromit run a pest control company (called “anti-pesto” – there’s more where that goofy name came from). They take care of a neighborhood, look after people’s gardens, capture rabbits and other pests, making sure that nobody’s flowers and veggies are harmed. Naturally, there’s a big vegetable competition coming up, and everyone’s involved in this somehow (oh, how I would love to live in a neighborhood where people compete in growing veggies). There’s the organizer – Lady Tottington – who cherishes this tradition, has a phenomenal garden of her own, and loves animals of all sizes – even if some of them may feast on her prize-winning veggies. There’s a handful of obsessive gardeners who lock up their veggies for the night in the most unusual fashion, and count the days until their creations get a chance to shine at the contest. Let’s see, there’s Victor Quartermaine, Lady Tottington’s boyfriend who has plans for her estate, and has little tolerance for pests, or nice, friendly people like Wallace who are simply making a living capturing pests.
And of course, there are the rabbits. Cute as a … bunny, these critters may love the veggies, but that doesn’t work for everyone. As Wallace’s business grows outta control, he comes up with a great plan – instead of capturing and killing the rabbits (as Victor insists), Wallace proposes to hook them up to a … machine that will eradicate any desire to eat a vegetable. Problem solved. No need to kill, capture or eliminate poor rabbits in any way, and the vegetable contest is not compromised. Well, if the machine works well, this plan would be perfect… I can just see Gromit rolling his eyes to the side. That’s all you need to know about the plot – a group of kind, harmless characters, a threat, a nemesis, and a man with the plan. And of course the were-rabbit – he makes an appearance (with his pink bow-tie) in the middle of the film and begins to terrorize the neighborhood. Things get outta hand, W&G are losing customers, and people are losing their delicious giant pumpkins and zucchinis.
The film is smart despite a paper-thin plot. The attention to detail, the voicing, the labels on boxes, phone numbers – almost everything is either an in-joke, or a plot device. There’s not a single cheap shot thrown at the audience, not a single cliche blindly followed, not a single groan-inducing laugh. It’s sincere and kind, and coming from a placticene group of characters, makes the entire thing seem more surreal. You know you’re watching a few playdoh figures manipulated on the screen, but you can’t believe just how life-like their movement, and their emotions are. Again, the hard work and attention to everything is right there, from the very first scene. Even the inventions, as ridiculous as they may seem – do make sense. It’s an amazing blend of originality and sci-fi elements. How and who would have thought these contraptions up? Even if you disregard the solid plot and quality of animation, someone had to sit down and think these through – how would the duo create a network that connects to everyone’s garden, like a security system. How would Lady Tottington manage such a huge and elaborate garden on the roof of her castle. How would Victor be able to chase Gromit across the rooftops in a small plane… OK, I’m watching a cartoon, where anything can happen. Suspend disbelief.
It’s nice to see that good work can be done on the big screen. The technical aspect, the writing, the delivery – all are incredible. Sure, this is a dark horse – people have grown tired of animation (thanks to Disney), and this year – tired of movies altogether (thanks to big dumb movies week after week). But this is such a gem, so original, and so full of love and effort that was put into this – would be a shame to miss this new chapter of Wallace & Gromit adventures. Go see it. It’s an amazing piece of work, you’ll just sit back and admire this entire plasticene world. Even if it only lasts 90 minutes.