screenplay by Steve Box & Nick Park, Mark Burton and Bob Baker
directed by Nick Park and Steve Box
by Walter Chaw Perfectly innocuous even though it's (very) occasionally mildly naughty (a pair of melon jokes, a makeshift fig leaf labelled "contains nuts"), Aardman's Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (hereafter Were-Rabbit) doesn't break a lot of new ground in the claymated pair's misadventures in serving up a workmanlike tale of love, loyalty, gardening, gadgets, and misguided medical experimentation. It takes an unusually long time to get started, for one, re-establishing the best-pals relationship between cheese-loving, jug-eared inventor Wallace and his faithful mutt Gromit (theirs is an Inspector Gadget/Brain sort of dynamic) with the kind of leisurely pace that feels more like a valedictory procession than something born of necessity. "Wallace & Gromit" cartoons have, after all, become a standby on the festival circuit, functioning as buffers between films and the palette-cleanser in all-shorts programs. But it's that very function, as the whimsical interstitial, that makes a feature-length presentation just a charming diversion that outstays its welcome ever so slightly. Unlike its feature-length predecessor Chicken Run, there isn't the bite of satire in Were-Rabbit--no light shed on the British social caste system and, likewise, few inroads made in the traditional love vs. status romance. What coalesces is an appreciation for the craft involved in realizing the picture and a suspicion that you're going to be hungry again in about an hour.
Never boring, Were-Rabbit is also, save stretches during its delirious final chase, not particularly involving. Maybe it's that the romance between Wallace and Lady Tottington is something of a foregone conclusion, or maybe it's that the villainy of Quartermaine is predictably augmented by his physical appearance (he's short and bald and a carnivore). More likely, it's that the identity of the Were-Rabbit is never much in doubt--and that, other than a couple of vaguely suggestive passages, the "beast within the man" conceit isn't carried very far. By lacking many avenues for critical discussion, what's left is a picture without a lot of subtext that skates along with a pleasing level of technical aptitude and visual cleverness. Its best gag probably the discovery that the local bishop has a nun-wrestling magazine stashed in his vestibule ("Big Bad Habits!"), Were-Rabbit succeeds, too, in aping tumbleweed operas, King Kong, and the old Universal Horror tradition with verve and a mordant sense of deadpan UK irony. Were-Rabbit only disappoints with its lack of resonance, though in all fairness, a cleverly-animated cloud-bust is all the pair ever really promised. Originally published: October 7, 2005.