Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wonderful sustained visual comedy

Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Since I first discovered Wallace and Gromit, I’ve been a great fan. I love the detail in their movies, detail which repays constant revisits, and I love the humour which is not only dry and English, but is often subtle, and almost missed.
This full-length feature has all these qualities in abundance, and it has a neat plot which is complicated enough without being complex. But I think what made it so appealing was its laugh-out-loud quality. There were moments while watching this when my wife and I were barely unable to stop laughing because of the sheer silliness and invention in the humour. (Normally my wife has a habit of going to sleep during animated movies, evenin the cinema.) The climax of the film is an absolute delight, and what’s more it’s full of references to recent movies, notably Peter Jackson’s King Kong.
In spite of its animated approach, this is comedy for adults far more than for children. The many jokes, the obvious and the not-so-obvious, will mostly float over the heads of young ones. They’re intended for people with a bit of life experience, and with a residue of background material to compare the humour against. (Keep an eye out for what's behind the vicar, and 'her ladyship' in the church scene.)
Even though there is dialogue in this movie, it’s the silent comedy aspect of it that’s most effective. We couldn’t do without the wonderful comic vocals of Peter Sallis, Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter, but far more of the humour is located in Gromit’s silent facial expressions and his ability to bring home the bacon when all else fails. It reminds me of Buster Keaton’s movies. They had dialogue, but it was only there to move the plot along. The greatest moments are purely visual, as they are in this film, and all the more effective for it.

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