I must confess that before I sat down to watch this film, I was a Wallace and Gromit virgin. I had indeed heard tremendous praise for the prior short-length adventures of this animated duo, but I was never convinced that such a concept would appeal to me. From what little material I came across, I assumed that the proceedings would be either too cutesy (read: aimed at kids) or dry (read: aimed at adults). So The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (#9 - tie) came and went back in October, and despite the stellar reviews and the inevitabiliy of its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature, I felt no loss at having skipped it. The only reason I ended up watching it on DVD was because my local video store had no copies of Kings and Queen, so I picked up Were-Rabbit to bulk up my 2005 quota. What a great decision I made, for I found the film an absolutely riotous delight! I have since watched the film three more times since my initial viewing, and it has not lessened at all in my eyes one bit. It remains fresh and charming (without being pacifying) just as it was the first time around, succeeding in making me erupt into giggles every other minute (especially during those moments where those psychotic, bouncy rabbits hop their way into the frame). In this feature-length effort, directors Nick Park and Steve Box open up the world of their two characters, introducing the viewer to Wallace and Gromit's township and the people who reside in it.
The film looks stunning, and to consider the amount of detail, effort and planning that went into this only heightens one's appreciation of the team's accomplishments. This landscape has limitless potential, and it struck me how easy it is to lose oneself in these environments. Yet aware of the dangers of attempting to go overboard in an endeavor such as this, Park and Box are selective in who they choose to include in the tale, specifically choosing to elect only the glorious Lady Tottington (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, in a performance that completely trumps her work in The Corpse Bride, another stop-motion film released last year) and the ruthless villain Lord Quartermaine (a delightful Ralph Fiennes) as fleshed-out characters. The beauty of the film lies in its simplicity - the characters of Wallace and his faithful partner are as impressionable as ever, and despite the greater scope of the narrative, the proceedings never feel come across as overwhelming. Ultimately, Wallace and Gromit do not lose their charms on the big screen; their winsome personalities are simply amplified for our enjoyment. It is a delightful tale that will win over an audience of both kids and adults of all ages.