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DreamWorks presents
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit (2005)

Victor Quartermaine: How on earth would those tiny-minded buffoons ever catch such a big rabbit?
Lady Tottington: Mr. Wallace?
Wallace: Oh... dum... W-well... with a big trap.

- Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Peter Sallis

Review By: Nate Meyers  
Published: February 14, 2006

Stars: Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter
Other Stars: Peter Kay, Nicholas Smith, Liz Smith, John Thomson, Mark Gatiss, Vincent Ebrahim, Geraldine McEwan, Edward Kelsey, Dicken Ashworth, Robert Horvwath, Pete Atkin, Noni Lewis, Ben Whitehead
Director: Nick Park, Steve Box

MPAA Rating: G for (brief animated partial nudity)
Run Time: 01h:24m:30s
Release Date: February 07, 2006
UPC: 678149434224
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A-A+A- B+

DVD Review

Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit stands alongside the greatest of children's fantasy worlds. In the short films that introduced this lovable duo to the world, Park and collaborator Peter Lord took their plasticine creations and breathed life into them, making them a favorite of adults and children alike. Now, after years of immense anticipation in wake of their triumphant Chicken Run, the artists at Aardman Studios bring the eccentric inventor and his canine partner to the big screen with endless wit and imagination.

Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) and four-legged companion Gromit (who doesn't speak, but the animation expresses more emotion than you might think possible) are about to have their peaceful existence interrupted, for they now enter into The Curse of the Were-rabbit. When the film begins, the duo awaken from a sound sleep and are transported through a Batcave-like apparatus into their Anti-Pesto S.W.A.T. Team vehicle. A bunny is about to munch into Mrs. Mulch's prized pumpkin, but genius inventor Wallace humanely neutralizes the pest and keeps his local English town safe. However, things get crazy on the eve of the town's Giant Vegetable Festival, hosted by Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter).

The entire Tottington estate is infested with bunnies, but Anti-Pesto comes to the rescue. In saving them, Wallace and Gromit secure the affection of Lady Tottington, but accrue the wrath of her beau, the pompous hunter Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes). There's an indescribable charm in watching Wallace interact with Victor. His innocent demeanor works wonderfully with Victor's arrogance, especially when Wallace misunderstands Victor's request for his toupee. After his triumphant trip to Tottington Hall, Wallace soon finds his house is overloaded with rabbits. In a spur of the moment decision, he attempts to rehabilitate the worst of them with the Mind-Manipulation-O-Matic, but while deprogramming the bunny's vegetable cravings, the experiment goes horribly wrong. As a consequence, the dreaded Were-rabbit is born!

The joy of watching this film escapes description. The screenplay works as a children's adventure, a spoof on horror films, and an adult's comedy. As a fan of these characters, my expectations were quite high for this movie. Happily, directors Nick Park and Steve Box exceed all of them, delivering perhaps the most entertaining film in years. They stage the "scary scenes" in such a manner that James Whale would be proud, using stylish angles and lighting to give the visuals a classical Hollywood style. Yet, somehow, it never feels as if they have abandoned the distinct style of the original short films. The claymation looks beautiful, helping to make these characters connect with the audience.

The animation work here is impeccable. The city streets and Tottington Hall look amazing; the people at Aardman have created a world here that brims with authenticity and stands up to the most scrutinizing eye. Their work is especially noteworthy in the film's chase scenes, making for some of the most fun and visceral moments Hollywood offered in all of 2005. The facial expressions give a strong emotional range to the characters. This is especially evident in Gromit, where the animators carry the full burden of the performance. Every bit as important as the work of the animators are the voice performers. Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter deliver their lines with great zeal, playing the parts with dead seriousness to highlight the comic effect. All of the townspeople are voiced effectively, as well. However, it is the work of Peter Sallis that stands out. He continues to capture the charm of Wallace, making his befuddled nature hilarious, but also touching.

The Curse of the Were-rabbit is one of those rare delights that should appeal to both adults and children. The flawless 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer looks amazing, giving the plasticine creations remarkable life and depth. The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is equally engaging, placing the viewer right into the film's center (though it doesn't have a tremendous dynamic range). Once the closing credits began to roll, I whistled the infectious score with loving affection. Simply put, I didn't want it to end.


[NOTE: Make sure you watch the closing credits to the very end, because there's a priceless gag you won't want to miss.]

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes
Image Transfer Grade: A+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, Frenchyes
Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Over the Hedge
9 Deleted Scenes
2 Alternate Endings
1 Documentaries
3 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Steve Box, Nick Park
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:51m:37s

Extra Extras:
  1. Flushed Away Sneak Preview—a special look inside the making of Peter Lord's upcoming Aardman feature film.
  2. Stage Fright—Steve Box's 1997 animated short film.
  3. The Family Album—a collection of various still galleries.
  4. Cracking Contraption—three mini-short films featuring Wallace and Gromit.
  5. Games and Activities—some kid-friendly games relating to the film.
Extras Review: The special features on this release are far more extensive than the back cover would lead you to think. The usual coming attractions for other DreamWorks Animation movies come up before the main menu, with the trailer for Over the Hedge and a short sneak preview of Peter Lord's Flushed Away. After that, however, all of the supplementals pertain to the film itself.

A "cracking" feature-length commentary by directors Nick Park and Steve Box initiates a nice mixture of informative and entertaining extras. The two men are very relaxed in their manner, discussing the various difficulties of claymation and making the transition from short films to features. They also discuss a variety of different story ideas that either were dropped or altered during filming. However, the two men don't spend a great deal of time on technical details, which may come as a disappointment to prospective animators.

Following that are nine deleted scenes that can be played together (13m:11s total). Some scenes are merely storyboards, while others have the finished animation. While all of the scenes were wisely dropped from the final film, they are worth looking at on their own. Especially enjoyable are the two alternate endings, giving a good view of how the creative process evolves during a movie's production. Park and Box also provide optional commentaries on these scenes.

Next is a documentary, How Wallace and Gromit Went to Hollywood (20m:22s), that chronicles the characters' journey from being a school project up to the recent fire at Aardman Studios. The whole thing is somewhat abbreviated and is designed to engage younger viewers, but there are some nice bits about the films' impact on various cultures and how Park and Peter Lord came to know one another. Accompanying the documentary are three featurettes, beginning with Behind the Scenes of Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit (13m:01s). Containing interviews with the directors, animators, and cast, this is a promotional piece recycled onto the DVD. It's a quick look at the film, so little information is relayed here. However, the featurette does show the actors recording their voices and Park's direction of them.

The second featurette, A Day in the Life at Aardman (08m:24s) is also quite brief, but gives a good sense of the studio's atmosphere. Getting full access to all the various sets and characters stored at Aardman really shows how big of a loss it is that it all burned down last year. The final featurette, How to Build a Bunny (03m:30s), is a quick, fluffy how-to. Truthfully, I'd be surprised if anybody can actually make a solid bunny after watching this featurette. Still, the bunnies are so adorable that it doesn't really matter.

Stage Fright (11m:08s) is a 1997 animated short, directed by Steve Box. This is a rather odd, slightly obtuse movie about a music hall performer who is put aside by the advent of movies. Kids probably will not relate to it, but the animation is quite good. Box also provides an optional commentary that divulges how it all came about (and he even admits that he doesn't know what the short means).

Last of the regular features is The Family Album. Containing four separate, small stills galleries. Apart from the behind-the-scenes gallery and the storyboards, the photos are all taken from the final film. All of these extras are designed to please both adults and kids, and succeed for the most part. However, DreamWorks has also included a separate section specifically for children.

The DWK features are broken into two categories. The first is Cracking Contraptions, which features three mini-short films starring Wallace and Gromit. The Snoozatron (02m:38s), The 525 Crackervac (02m:15s), and Shopper 13 (04m:00s) are part of a larger collection of short films made a few years back. Each one centers around one of Wallace's new inventions and makes for a pleasant gag.

The second category, Games and Activities, assembles various antics for kids to delight in. The first, Anti-Pesto S.W.A.T. Team, is a video game where you need to catch all the rabbits. Providing you do so, there's a special prize that pertains to the DVD-ROM content. After that comes Victor Quartermaine's Guide to Cool, with the man himself dishing out six "how to" tidbits on being posh. For each tidbit there's a clip of from the film. Style with Lady Tottington allows the viewer to dress her up by choosing her jewelry, hairstyle, and dress. The final activity, Build Your Own Bunny is a repeat from the earlier featurette, though it is edited slight differently.

All in all, these extras are quite good and should make both DVD fans and little kids happy.

Extras Grade: B+

 

Final Comments

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-rabbit builds upon the success of the short films, making for one of the most endearing films of last year. This DVD is loaded with excellent transfers and special features both adults and kids can enjoy. Absolutely add this one to your collection.

 


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