Wallace & Gromit Come to the Big Screen

Featuring reviews of new and recently releasedfamily-oriented films and movies by United Parenting Publications film critic, Philip Murphy.

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Having caught a sneak peak at a portion of the new - and yet-to-be-completed - Wallace & Gromit movie, I cannot review the film as a whole. But I can say that the first half hour is quite funny.

The animated duo's first full-length big-screen adventure, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, stars Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) in all his inventive obtuseness, and Gromit, in his silent and long-suffering role as Wallace's canine sidekick. Plus, it features some intriguing new characters and humorously highlights their unique approach to pest control, which involves bunnies and a powerful vacuum.

Those already familiar with the Academy Award-winning Wallace & Gromit shorts from Nick Park and Aardman Animation will be glad to know that their first big-screen feature (being done in collaboration with Dreamworks Animation, which also co-produced Chicken Run with Aardman) is made in the same painstaking "claymation" style they are famous for and bears all the humor, charm and wonder of the originals. However, this film is longer, of course, and has more characters.

In terms of a plot, I don't think it's giving too much away to say that as the annual Giant Vegetable Competition approaches, a mysterious vegetable-ravaging beast is terrorizing the town's veggie patches and it's up to Wallace and Gromit to stop it. Beyond that, I think it best if I let the filmmakers speak for themselves about what went into making the film.

"Making a 30-minute Wallace & Gromit movie is time-consuming and requires a lot of patience and care. Making an 85-minute feature is like making the Great Wall of China with matchsticks," laughs Steve Box, co-director of the film along with Nick Park. "It was five years of solid work, because every tiny, little thing matters so much. But I think the biggest challenge of taking these characters from 30 minutes to 85 minutes was finding the story."

Park concurs, saying, "It took a while to come up with an idea we felt was expansive enough to suggest a full-length movie. Steve and I sat for hours on end with the other writers, and we suddenly hit on this idea about a were-rabbit." Park goes on to say that "the Wallace and Gromit movies have always referenced other film genres, and we thought a great genre to borrow from would be the classic Universal horror movies. But, in our movie, instead of a were-wolf, we have a were-rabbit and instead of devouring flesh and blood - in Wallace and Gromit's world, it's got to be something more absurd - we make it vegetables. It's a vegetable-eating monster so, in effect, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit became the world's first vegetarian horror movie."

To go with the were-rabbit, Park and Box and their team also came up with a few more exotic characters, such as Lady Tottington (voiced by Helena Bonham-Carter), who hires W&G to humanely dispose of her rabbit problem; and her erstwhile suitor, the devious Victor Quartermaine (voiced by Ralph Fiennes), who not only has designs on the Lady T, but also has a very different notion of how to get rid of rabbits. With the characters modeled in the traditional W&G claymation way, that allows for plenty of lumps and fingerprints to show. There should be no doubt that this film will be suitable for children and adults of all ages. The film opens Oct. 7 and is rated G.

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