Retro Review: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Distributor: DreamWorks Pictures

Directors: Steve Box & Nick Parks

Writers: Steve Box & Nick Parks

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham Carter

Rated: G

As a young teenager, I didn’t even know about the series until this movie came out.  Yet, I remember greatly liking this movie, the point of watching it well over a dozen times in only a few months. After not having seen it for quite some time, though, I don’t remember exactly why it was that I liked it so much. Seeing if one’s childhood favorites stands the test of time and changing tastes is always interesting, and I look forward to seeing how well Wallace and Gromit holds up under the judgment of my adult self.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: A hunter makes several unsuccessful attempts to use a gun to kill rabbits and a named character. A mob attacks a giant rabbit with torches and pitchforks. Rabbits violently attack innocent vegetables on several occasions.

Language/Crude Humor: None.

Sexual Content: A couple of scenes contain obvious sexual undertones that are designed to be played for laughs. A male character’s bare bottom is seen for a few seconds, mostly for the sake of a pun.

Spiritual Content: One of the characters is a priest, and a few brief scenes are set inside a church, though there’s hardly any actual religious content.

Drug/Alcohol Use: A character makes a snide remark about the priest “getting into the communion wine.”

Other Negative Content: A fairly major plot point consists of a man trying to win a woman’s hand in marriage purely for the sake of gaining her wealth.

Positive Content: Wanton killing is frequently condemned by respectable characters, while humane treatment of people and animals is praised.

Review

Wallace and Gromit’s trip to the big screen harnesses all the animated value of a single-minded small town, a duo of wannabe superhero pest-control experts, and deconstructed Gothic mythology…and swiftly turns it into an hour-and-a-half long vehicle for churning out puns. Some may think that this makes for cheap, low-class entertainment. Don’t listen to them, because Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a fantastic slice of witty cinematic delight.

The recipe is as follows: take a heaping bowl of comedically appropriated werewolf lore, add a dash of Frankenstein, season with some cheeky visuals, and stir in a generous helping of cheese (for flavor!), and you’re ready to bake up one of the wackier mainstream films of the 2000s. While the plot itself is nonsensical (if reasonably coherent), the foreground isn’t what you’ll want to be focusing on for much of the movie’s runtime. No, to get the most out of this experience, one should always be paying attention to the background, making sure to catch all of the cultural parodies, puns, and visual gags tucked away behind the action. And then watch it again, because there were probably a couple elements you missed.

Like any good animated family movie, Curse of the Were-Rabbit brings something to the table for everyone: it has plenty of overt humor to captivate younger viewers while also working in progressively more subtle jokes that even adults may not instantly get. All of this comes alongside a light sprinkling of cultural critique and a hefty dose of self-awareness.

The story itself begins with a wonderfully conceived sequence that mocks its titular characters even as it endears them to us, which is emblematic of the balance the film strikes between sheer goofiness and hidden intelligence. The fact that the characters play everything straight, no matter how zany, only adds to how fun the film is to watch, as viewers are empowered to choose whether to let themselves get caught up in the madness or to distance themselves from it and gleefully judge the sheer lunacy of everything going on. And just when you think the comedy is about to get stale, the movie one-ups itself with a new twist that’s sure to elicit some gut-wrenching laughs.

The movie, like the show, uses stop-motion animation, which I’m ordinarily not a fan of–it makes for a choppy scene flow, whereas I prefer to watch animations that are fluid and smooth. Here, however, the choppiness plays exceptionally well with the deliberate silliness of the subject matter. The erratic swaying of Anti-Pesto’s van and the overexaggerated movement of the characters’ mouths beautifully enhance the slight goofiness of both the events and the dialogue without breaking the viewer’s immersion. All in all, the movie is an excellent example of creators understanding how to use even the weaknesses of their style to improve the overall product.

After watching this film again as an adult, my appreciation for the Curse of the Were-Rabbit has only grown stronger. So, Wallace and Gromit, thirteen years after your attempt at carving out your own feature-length film, there’s just one thing left for me to say:

Well done, old chums.

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Ian Hancock

Ian is a speculative fiction writer with an English degree from the University of the Fraser Valley. When he's not writing, he enjoys strategy games, sports, anime, and finding new ways to make fun of life.

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