October 4, 2005

HIGH BROW, LOW BROW, DOG BROW?

A New Challenge for an Englishman and His Dog (A. O. SCOTT, 10/05/05, NY Times)

I hope you will forgive me for saying so - and I hope the filmmakers will forgive me, too - but "Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" has forced me to ponder the deepest mysteries of cinema. Why, for instance, do certain faces haunt and move us as they do?

I am thinking of Gromit, the mute and loyal animated dog whose selflessness and intelligence can be counted on, when things get really crazy, to save the day. Gromit has no mouth, and yet his face is one of the most expressive ever committed to the screen. In particular, his brow - a protuberance overhanging his spherical, googly eyes - is an almost unmatched register of emotion. Resignation, worry, tenderness and disgust all come alive in that plasticine nub. To keep matters within the DreamWorks menagerie, you might compare Gromit to Shrek, who has the genetic advantages of Mike Myers's Scots burr, a bevy of celebrity-voiced sidekicks and rivals, and state-of-the-art computer-animation technology. Good for him. But Gromit, made by hand and animated by a painstaking stop-motion process, has something Shrek will never acquire in a hundred sequels: a soul.

And this unassuming pooch's feature film debut, after appearances in three sublime half-hour shorts, is thus a solemn occasion (even if the movie itself is utterly silly). His face now enters the pantheon of stars whose charisma transcends speech. Keaton, Chaplin, Garbo - let them now make room for Gromit. Which is in no way to slight Wallace, his entrepreneurial owner, who speaks in the voice of Peter Sallis and who personifies all the traditional virtues of the provincial English middle class. (His shortcomings are entirely his own, of course.)

MORE:
Comic ingenuity to goggle the eyes: Wallace and Gromit, an inventor and his dog, face a monster rabbit in a comic horror story shaped from clay. (Kenneth Turan, October 5, 2005, LA Times)

Wallace and Gromit are ready for their close-up. And do we ever need them now.

Superstars of comic short films, this intrepid clay animation duo makes its much-anticipated move to features in the irresistible "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," puckishly characterized by creator Nick Park as "the first vegetarian horror movie ever."

In a movie culture in which creativity is often strangled in its cradle, it is both welcome and astonishing to see how successful Park's unlikely pairing of his own idiosyncratic sensibility with the most labor-intensive form of animation has become. "It was simply my own taste, the kind of film I wanted to see," the film's British co-writer and co-director said at Cannes about Wallace and Gromit's origins. "It always astonishes me how universal it's become."

Park's joining more than 15 years ago of a genially hapless inventor who's mad for cheese and his poker-faced know-it-all silent dog has led to three Oscar nominations and two statuettes for the dynamic duo. Park delayed the team's feature debut, which boasts Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes as voice talent, until he could come up with a plot worthy of their shenanigans, and he has.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 4, 2005 11:33 PM
Comments

Wallace and Gromit turn the dial up to '11'.

I'd buy this DVD without having watched the movie.
Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of W & G merchandise in the States, although I was able to pick up some dolls and t-shirts in the UK.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 5, 2005 10:29 AM

Sounds like Bunnicula to me.

Posted by: Governor Breck at October 5, 2005 1:42 PM
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