The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Play dough has never been this fun.
If anything can pull today’s kids away from their computers it’s the new film Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.  It’s natural for old grumps like me to root for play-dough characters at a time when computer-generated ogres, superheroes, and zoo characters have bullied out traditional forms of animation on the big (and small!) screen, but you can’t write off a film like The Curse of the Were-Rabbit to mere David and Goliath nostalgia.
Take Gromit, a silent, faithful bit of white play-dough in the shape of a dog put together in such a primitive way that you can occasionally make out fingerprints in the clay, for example. It’s easy to forget the absurd details in the latest DreamWorks’ creation when you’re convinced of the reality of a pooch that could have been rolled on someone’s kitchen table.
It’s amazing how emotive Gromit is, how much depth can be conveyed in his simple form, and he’s a genuine scene stealer in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. It would be cinematic suicide to put him with Shrek whathisname, DreamWorks’ famous ogre, or even the morose characters in Burton’s Corpse Bride. In fact, Gromit could put some of Hollywood “A” actors to shame as well, in the same way that Triumph the Insult Dog made Jennifer Lopez look wooden at the MTV Music Awards.       
The landscape Gromit and his bald, middle-class, middle-aged, cheese-loving master Wallace (Peter Sallis) walk through is ordinary and amazing; magical and everyday. Instead of a world of Toy Story super-realism or the over-emotional gothic stagework of Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride, Wallace and Gromit live in a British hamlet with petty bourgeoisie who are obsessed with vegetables, of all things.    
Wallace and Gromit are Anti-Pesto, adored pest-control officers protecting innocent greens from a ravenous rabbit population whose appetite seems almost unappeasable. Wallace is a genius inventor with a simple nature that always seems to undo his work, but his surveillance system – which uses garden gnome cameras and other anti-rabbit devices – works flawlessly.
Wallace decides to attempt a brave experiment as the town prepares for its annual Giant Vegetable Competition. In an effort to make rabbits harmless to vegetables, Wallace attempts a mass bunny brainwashing that combines A Clockwork Orange and The Fly, but it backfires releasing a were-rabbit in the town. 
The town initially calls on Anti-Pesto, but when they can’t seem to stop the beast’s rampage a local sports-hunter steps in to help the town and impress the local aristocracy.  Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes) is an English Elmer Fudd, an anti-Wallace who would rather see all rabbits dead than captured.
Combining tropes from classic horror films such as The Fly and The Curse of the Werewolf, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a joy for fans of the genre. You know the creators are also big fans you when the resident geezer starts talking about giant slug invasions or the duck plague of 1953, or the town paper’s front page story is titled “Night of Vegetable Carnage.” 
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is almost too fun for adults for a film rated “G.” It taps into a sense of child-like wonder without becoming sappy and entertains the over-six crowd, not by throwing adult softballs that go over youngsters’ heads, but by being charming, and smart enough to appeal to any age group.
Let’s hope Hollywood didn’t break the mold after releasing The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I know a couple of actors who could learn a thing or two by studying how much emotion can be wrung out of a clay dog’s face.


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