WFTB Score: 13/20
The plot: Inventor Wallace and his trusty assistant dog Gromit protect the villagers’ prized vegetables from rabbits with their Anti-Pesto business. Wallace tries to re-programme the bunnies’ minds but accidentally unleashes an even more powerful threat to the village. Can the pair save the veg and win the day? And will Wallace win the heart of the beautiful lady Tottington, also the target of manic hunter Victor Quartermaine?
The first and last Wallace and Gromit film to be produced by Dreamworks, Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a very British film, perhaps explaining why it got a good-but-not-great reception in America, despite its Oscar nod. The film sees the resourceful master-and-dog team from the North of England trusted with care over their village’s vegetables, kept in pristine condition for a prestigious contest to be held at Tottington Hall; but in a loving pastiche of (again mostly British) horror films, a ravenous monster casts a big bunny-shaped shadow over the village as, every full moon, it decimates the crop, much to the dismay and anger of the residents. As Wallace and Gromit attempt to track down the accursed Were-Rabbit, with bloodthirsty Victor Quartermaine and his bulldog Phillip in tow, strange things start happening to Wallace, and not just because he has fallen in love with the lovely ‘Lady Totty.’
Curse of the Were-Rabbit does a number of things extremely well. Importantly, both Wallace and Gromit retain their charm, the plot thankfully not calling them away from cosy English pursuits. As ever, the attention to detail is astonishing, with Gromit’s expressions particularly telling; the number of little jokes going on in the background also makes the film extremely watchable. Also, just like Shaun the Sheep in previous adventure A Close Shave, the rabbits that Anti-Pesto catch are both funny and cute, especially in the way they wave.
The best compliment you can give to the animation is that you constantly forget that it is animation. Credit for this must not only go to Nick Park, as ever, but also to the cast, led by Peter Sallis as Wallace, with support from Helena Bonham-Carter as Lady Totty and Ralph Fiennes as Victor. Sallis’ voice fits the part perfectly, making it perfectly clear who is the brains of the operation (ie. not him!).
On the downside, the plot leaves the film with a few less successful elements. Firstly, Wallace’s mind-altering machine calls for the introduction of computer-generated effects – not a major issue but a departure from previous Aardman techniques. Secondly, in turning Wallace into the Were-Rabbit (not perhaps the best idea to begin with), the machine creates a second half-rabbit, half-Wallace creation called Hutch. In tank top and slippers, Hutch has the potential to be a fun character, but although he inherits Wallace’s passions for inventing and cheese, he is seemingly unable to think for himself, merely repeating catchphrases at a higher pitch. And just when you might think Hutch will come in most useful, his part in reviving Wallace amounts solely to reminding Gromit about cheese. It feels as though an idea has only been partially executed, leaving Hutch as a bit of an oddity on the sidelines.
In the midst of the rest of the ideas The Curse of the Were-Rabbit brings to the table, however, this is a minor complaint. Hutch apart, the new characters are effective and delightfully realised, and there is more than enough action to please viewers of any age: in particular, the scene where Phillip chases Gromit, both in small biplanes, in a literal dogfight is a masterful piece of comedy and animation which I would challenge anyone not to enjoy. It’s a lovely family film, though by no means flawless, and its peculiar brand of Englishness (and therefore limited international appeal) is something to be celebrated by all but the most money-minded studio bosses.