Fear and Loathing in the Warren.
Steve Box, Nick Park
First off, I’m going to just come out and say it. Critics have been dancing around the issue ever since the first press screenings of this movie made the rounds, biting their tongues for fear of stepping out of line. They fear inciting the wrath of the movie-going masses for besmirching the name of an acknowledged classic, but I’m nothing if not a risk taker, so I’m going to lay it down, and call it like I see it. This movie is way better than Night of the Lepus. I know, I know, Night of the Lepus is to giant rabbit movies what Jaws is to sharks, or Passion of the Christ is to idiots, but this movie succeeds in knocking it off its pedestal. It’s not like Night of the Lepus didn’t have its day in the sun. We’ve all watched Janet Leigh battle genetically enhanced rabbits over and over again when we were kids, and no self-respecting film school doesn’t dedicate at least one four-hour seminar to the impact that movie had on the industry, society, and human-rabbit relations in general, but its time has come and gone. Frankly, Night of the Lepus feels a bit dated now. It may be filmic sacrilege, but I find the film a little tired and, dare I say it, silly. Maybe it’s a sad thing to admit that the time when watching wolf-sized killer rabbits terrorize the American Southwest through bad forced perspective photography has past, and the horrors of yesteryear no longer pack the visceral thrill they once did. Perhaps now, we’re too jaded by music videos, radio shock jocks, and rap music to truly gaze upon filmmaking wonder with the sense of innocence we once had. Sadly, audiences now demand more bang for their buck, and though Night of the Lepus may fail the test of time, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit delivers in spades.
Action, terror, romance, Wallace & Gromit... has it all, though since it’s British, its graphic subtext and subversive content is bound up in Victorian prudery like a hooker in a corset. The story follows the titular characters in an idyllic, claymation utopia. For those unfamiliar with that particular animation process, think of it as a strange hybrid of a traditional animation feel with a faint three dimensional bulging, like leafing through a Little Mermaid flip book on mescaline. Wallace is an inventor, whose defining character trait seems to be a compulsive love of cheese. I remember being quite a fan of his as a child, but only now do I realize that he’s all lump-headed, disproportionate and strange, essentially a slightly more endearing version of mental retards just barely able to care for themselves outside of an institution. Yes, they can remember to feed themselves, but they still insist on leaving the halfway house in slippers in order to make unreasonable demands from bank tellers and hold up the line because they need to change a jar full of pennies into quarters. Gromit, on the other hand, is a mouth-less dog, who may in fact be the greatest silent comedy star since Pamela Anderson. I know she’s not technically a silent film star, but the only way to watch Stacked is to turn the volume off, so I’m counting her anyways. As the movie begins, Wallace and Gromit run a successful pest control business, ridding local vegetable gardens of rabbits through numerous contraptions lifted from particularly inventive games of Mouse Trap. Rather quickly, all this vegetable nonsense turns into sexually themed double entendres, culminating in several ithyphallic references to carrots and a bunch of routines with melons seemingly more at home in a cut sequence from Austin Powers. Through some wacky mad-scientist inventing, clearly included with the hopes that critics will use the term ‘hare-brained’ in their reviews to the mirth of bridge players the world over, Wallace eventually turns into a were-rabbit where, possessed by the animal’s legendary virility, he repeatedly humps female lead Helena Bonham Carter until her hips break and she dies of a bladder infections.
Alright, so maybe that’s not how it ends, but it should be, because as it stands, this movie is just a ploy to endear North American audiences to the British, just as Millions and Hugh Grant were before it. The film seeks to portray the English as pleasant, tea-sipping simple folk living in a pastoral paradise of quaint language and bad teeth, when you and I both know they’re one pint of Black & Tan away from trying to kill Dustin Hoffman with a machete and raping Susan George until she likes it. It’s all a ploy to get us to loosen up immigration policy, leaving our streets wide open to pub culture and people saying ‘cheers’ instead of thank you. I already run into enough shitheads in Boston Celtics jerseys throwing up that boozy milk they call beer after 7 pm on most weeknights, and I don’t need the rest of the United Kingdom flooding over in those stupid ‘Good Bush, Bad Bush’ T-shirts to talk in poncy accents and smoke unfiltered cigarettes. Plus, an influx of the British will more than double the chances of me coming across someone randomly doing a Monty Python routine, like anyone who’s under 50 finds that funny anymore. It’s over, OK? The rest of the world has moved on to more advanced forms of comedy, like Damon Wayans rehashing Archie Bunker jokes, watching a man called “Steve-O” ram Hot Wheels wrapped in condoms up his rectum, and bad movie review websites.