Film Review by Mark Hawthorne
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Directed by Nick Park and Steve Box
I hope the entire city council of Mission Viejo, California, takes
the time to see Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.
Last spring, that city was faced with a thriving colony of wild rabbits
who were gobbling up one community’s vegetation. The city council
voted to have the rabbits shot.
Watching The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, I could not help but
think of Mission
Viejo’s callous decision and feel more than a little sad that real life
does not have the happy ending we get from writer and director Nick Park. After
a series of highly successful short claymation films starring Wallace and Gromit,
an Englishman and his canine companion, Park created his first full-length feature, Chicken Run (2000), which did for chicken meat what Babe (1995)
had done for pig meat. Children realized that chicken wings and nuggets were
once part of
a sentient being who did not want to die. He promised that Wallace (voiced by
Peter Sallis) and Gromit, whose expressions speak volumes, would soon be getting
their own feature film, and I’m sure fans will agree the wait was worth
it. Not surprisingly, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is filled with anti-hunting
and pro-vegetarian messages certain to be understood by kids.
As the movie begins, it’s four days before the annual Giant Vegetable Competition,
and the local rabbits are, as Wallace might say, feeling more than a little peckish.
To protect the village’s prized veggies from hungry bunnies, our heroes
have established the Anti-Pesto security company, which employs a variety of
Wallace’s ingenious inventions—including a device called the Bun-Vac
6000—to humanely capture each and every rabbit before he or she can destroy
the neighborhood gardens. Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) is delighted
with their efforts, which infuriates Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), a pompous
big game hunter who is just itching to use the critters as target practice. Lady
Tottington, who is not only hosting the vegetable competition but is a devout
animal lover, won’t even consider harming them—and doesn’t
seem to care much for Victor’s attempts to woo her. She much prefers the
compassionate Wallace, who enjoys a vegetarian diet.
Before long, rabbits are overrunning the Wallace and Gromit household (after
all, they have to live somewhere), and the duo is faced with capturing their
titular antagonist: a monstrous rabbit with an insatiable appetite for the village’s
obsessively tended vegetable gardens. Even Gromit has a giant melon he’s
coddling in the backyard greenhouse. The ensuing action is a lively and atmospheric
wink at the movies that scared the wits out of audiences in the 1930s, ’40s
and ’50s—or at least tried to.
One of the many charms of Wallace and Gromit is that they inhabit a world that
is a unique mixture of old and new: their car is equipped with an old-fashioned
crank starter and an airbag, for example. Their quintessentially British town
seems to be stuck in 1953, without modern inconveniences like cell phones, traffic
and environmental destruction. The characters are so fully realized that you
forget you’re watching a film that required fives years of work with animators
carefully manipulating the movement of clay models frame by frame.
From an animal rights perspective, I have but one minor complaint to share. Throughout
most of the story, Lady Tottington remains steadfast in her resolve not to harm
any animals. But with vegetables being devoured, she is faced with the cancellation
of her precious contest and finally, with a heavy heart, gives Victor permission
to go after the were-rabbit. Of course, this allows the filmmakers to depict
the absurdity of hunting, and in the end the movie remains true to its cruelty-free
premise. Yet, I would have preferred to see the story’s most vocal animal
protectionist to never waver in her resolve. She makes up for this misstep in
the final scene, however, with an act sure to please animal rights advocates
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is likely to find a
place among recent films offering a gentle message about vegetarianism and the
need to respect
the animals with whom we share this planet.
Mark Hawthorne contributes regularly to Satya. He lives
in northern California, where he volunteers with several groups, including the
House Rabbit Society.