Theme music is so evocative, isn’t it? Whether it’s the sweeping orchestra of the opening bars of Star Wars, or the spine tingling ‘dings’ of Harry Potter – the semi-comedy trumpty sound of Wallace and Gromit never fails to light my spirits and bring a smile. DOO-do-do-DOO-do-do-DOOdoo da-da-DA-dada-DA-dadada-DA. Or something.
Before I go any further, I should probably say that this is a fab film, but it is measured against the expectation that it’s a Wallace and Gromit film, which is an awful lot to live up to. And.. dare I say it – I’m not sure it fully lives up to that expectation.
I hardly need say what’s good about it. The animation is as gorgeous as ever – you plain forget that you’re watching clay figures! The characters are wonderful, and so expressive. The humour is still very much laugh-out-loud, although in a production of this length there are “bare” patches, and some of the jokes are a little bit predictable. That said for most of the film the jokes come think and fast – so much so I’m not at all sure I caught them all. For instance, the opening sequence has a picture of Gromit graduating from “Dogwarts”. Plus there were endless nods at other films – too many to mention here.
So why the reservations? Well, I’ve hinted at it above – I think the film relied almost too much on a constant stream of gags, with no real hint of character development – which for a film that clocks in at well over an hour is a lacking. The characters are in the main wonderfully well rounded, but I don’t feel like I’ve got to know them any better after spending (what amounts to) several days in their company.
In a less nebulous sense, there were two specific problems the film had – firstly it was, in my opinion, too adult. There were genuinely scary moments, and at one point Wallace is wearing nothing but a cardboard box which has the label “may contain nuts”. I’m all for little jokes to keep the parents amused, but I think they go to far in warerabbit.
The other big flaw in the film is that at one point Gromit and another dog are going head to head in toy aeroplanes – one of them crashes and explodes with a huge fireball that (a) looks completely out of place and jarring compared to every other effect, which is claymation, (b) is a level of violence/realism which has no precedent (or place) in W&G world, and (c) for a while has apparantly killed the dog who was in it. That one fireball came very close to spoiling the entire film for me.
All this said, by any normal standards this is a solid 10/10 film – 99% of the time the humour is spot on, the characters are glorious, and the plot (such as it is) is enough to keep up interest. Could it have been 15 or 20 minutes shorter? Without a doubt – but that would deprive us of 15 or 20 minutes in W&G’s lovely company.
There were some interesting spiritual themes as well – the vicar correctly spotting that the true monster we need to be aware of are within. Is the real villain a giant rabbit who (just) eats vegetables, or the people who want to kill it? I love the vicar, by the way, and this out-of-context quote makes him sound like a totally different character from who he actually is.
Oh yes, and definitely one to buy on DVD – would easily survive multiple viewings.