Film Review: 'Curse of the Were-Rabbit' is Howling Good Fun

Film Review: 'Curse of the Were-Rabbit' is Howling Good Fun
Wallace (Peter Sallis) carefully reaches for Hutch the rabbit in "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit."
(Image: © DreamWorks Animation and Aardman Features.)

Whensomething strange in the neighborhood vegetable gardens is terrorizing yourprize squash, who do you call?  Clay-animation's brightest starshop to the task of saving the local produce from a night of gruesome vegetablecarnage in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Graduatingfrom their award-winning comic shorts to make their feature-film debut, Wallace(voiced by Peter Sallis), a cheese-chomping tinkerer of inventions of questionable merit, and Gromit, his silently stoic canine protector who is morenanny and housekeeper than pet, find their neighbors gripped with veggie-maniaas the annual Giant Vegetable Competition nears. "What would we do without ourvegetables?" one villager cries out empathically by way of explanation,clutching the front of her blouse. "We're simple people! We'd be lost withoutthem!"

Ourintrepid twosome, who have meanwhile been reaping a tidy profit with theirhumane pest-busting operation, "Anti-Pesto," quickly root out the cause of thedestruction: a proliferation of bunnies which are multiplying like, well, youknow. Anti-Pesto's "humane" method ofdisposal involves dumping the rabbits into neat little hutches housed in thebasement of their cottage. Naturally, the bunnies rebeland escape from their confines to wreck domestic hijinks,squealing with dastardly glee all the way.

The anxiousorganizer of the competition, Lady Tottington(masterfully voiced with aristocratic hippie-dippinessby Helena Bonham Carter) commissions the duo to rid her expansive grounds--whichis starting to look like a rampageous putting green--of a rabbit infestation,without hurting the dear little creatures. "They can't help it," she twitterswistfully. "It's in their little bunny natures."

Much to thechagrin of Lady "Call Me Totty" Tottington'strigger-happy suitor, Victor Quartermaine (RalphFiennes in a riotously smarmy turn), Wallace and Gromitroll out the Bun-Vac 6000, part-containment unit,part-highly-evolved-vacuum thingie, which then proceeds to suck up the bunnies with a satisfying seriesof fwa-thumps. Within the machine's glasschamber, a few dozen airborne bunnies float about in a surreal aerial ballet,looking adorably stunned and bemused.

Of course,the little critters are the least of the town's problem as a monstrous, fuzzyoffshoot of their bobtailed family tree skulks onto the scene, and begins gorging himself on the veritable smorgasbord oftomatoes, cauliflowers, pumpkins, cabbages, and melons that are to be enteredin the competition.

Directed byNick Park and Steve Box, and based on a screenplay by Steve Box, Nick Park, MaxBurton, and Bob Baker, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is rampant withvisual puns and double entendres that occasionally bogged the narrative and causedthe need to stifle groans. When Quartermaine asks theVicar for a way to defeat the beast, he is told that the Were-Rabbit can onlybe killed with a gold bullet. "Gold?" Quartermaine asks, momentarily stumped. The Vicar flashes atoothy grin and declares: "24 CARAT!"

There'slittle doubt that kids will love this movie, though. One particular scenestands out: The Were-Rabbit howls at the moon, and allover the countryside, little groups of bunnies simultaneously thump theirchests and let out a great loud "Awooooooo." Thesecond time this happens, the children in the audience catch on, joining therabbit troop onscreen in echoing the great beast's call. It's pure magic.

(Wallace & Gromit: Curseof the Were-Rabbit opens October 7. Running time: 85 minutes, RatedG.)

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