When the night falls and the moon rises, the safety of England’s gardens is threatened by a terrifying creature: the Were-Rabbit! Roaming from one back yard to another, it devours everything in its path, from the smallest carrot to the biggest cabbage. And big veggies abound around here, a few days away from the Giant Vegetables Competition. The villagers desperately need heroes to stop the big-eared beast from ruining their annual agricultural fair, and they find them in Wallace and his faithful dog Gromit.
As the title suggests, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is an absurd homage to 1930s Universal horror movies, from the misunderstood monster born from experimentations that go against nature to the angry mob carrying torches and pitchforks. Of course, the Were-Rabbit is more cute than scary, even during a “Night of Vegetable Carnage”, but the storytelling admirably follows the codes of the genre.
This is not Wallace and Gromit’s first crazy adventure, having already gone to the moon, warded off a penguin burglar and cut short a mysterious sheep-napping scheme, as we’ve seen in the three brilliant animated shorts that led to this first feature. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit has all the charm and the goofiness of A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave, and the characters are as lovable as ever. Wallace is still addicted to cheese and oddball inventions and Gromit remains one heck of a resourceful pooch. We also meet a few newcomers, notably Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter, who also gives her voice to Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride), a thick-lipped lady who grows fond of Wallace.
Director Nick Park and the animators at Aardman Studios, to whom we also owe Creature Comforts and Chicken Run, spent five years working on The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. What’s most impressive, though, is not how they have to meticulously manipulate their little plasticine figures frame by frame to create the often spectacular actions called for in the screenplay, but that they manage to make it look effortless and let us simply lose ourselves in the countless stunts and gags. Good times.