In 2005, DreamWorks and Aardman Animation released Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. This movie would be their second film together, and while it was not quite as successful as their previous collaboration, Chicken Run, it was still well-received, and took in almost $193 million worldwide.
The word ‘worldwide’ here is key though, because in America the film barely broke even, and DreamWorks saw it as a failure. This was likely the first step towards the split of the two companies, and eventually lead to the cancellation of their five film contract, two years later.
Aside from an underwhelming American box-office, Curse of the Were-Rabbit was still critically acclaimed. In 2006, the film won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, making it the first stop-motion film to win this award. It is also the only stop-motion film to win so far, as no other stop-motion animated film nominated since then has won.
The characters Wallace and Gromit, while perhaps new to most American audiences at the time, have been around since 1989, and had been the subject of several short films before Curse of the Were-Rabbit. By the time that Were-Rabbit was released, the duo were somewhat of an iconic part of British pop culture.
Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit follows the adventures of an eccentric inventor and his loyal dog. The two have started a pest control business, which they have called, ‘Anti-Pesto’ (Yes, they do love their puns) and they use Wallace’s inventions as a way to humanely trap garden pests who are threatening their small town’s vegetable gardens.
During a routine stop Wallace catches the eye, and perhaps heart, of one, Lady Campanula Tottington, a member of the local elite, and a devout animal lover. She is being wooed by the self-obsessed, Lord Victor Quartermaine, who shares none of her heart for all things furry and adorable. Wallace traps and removes all of Lady Tottington’s rabbits, much to the chagrin of Lord Quartermaine, who would love nothing more than to blast every last rabbit into eternity.
In his quest to find a non-violent solution to the town’s rabbit problem in time for the town’s giant vegetable competition, Wallace decides to invent a machine to brainwash the bunnies he has trapped, into hating vegetables. However, in the process of hooking himself and the rabbits into the machine, something goes terribly wrong, and several jolts of electricity later, one of the rabbits begins exhibiting strange symptoms. As the time draws nearer to the competition, a monstrous, vegetable-devouring beast begins appearing at night, destroying gardens all over town. Could Wallace’s invention be to blame?
The rest of the movie plays out like a brilliant spoof of many old monster movies from the days of early cinema. Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, King Kong, and many others are all tapped to make this film into a hilarious take on classic horror movies. But of course, this is a family film, so it never actually dips into horror territory, it just lampoons it, to great effect.
With all the parody going on, you might have guessed, Curse of the Were-Rabbit is very funny. From the parodied monster movies, to the puns, wordplay, sight gags, and slapstick, there is really something for everyone here. Aardman knows how to do humor, and they pull out all the stops for this movie.
All this humor is of course elevated by the incredible cast, all of whom are veteran actors, both from British comedy backgrounds, as well as more serious dramas, and they all work together brilliantly. Of course we have Peter Sallis as Wallace, but there’s also Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Tottington, Ralph Fiennes as Victor Quartermaine, and various townsfolk voiced by the likes of Nicholas Smith, Peter Kay, and Liz Smith, just to name a few.
If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. Like most stop-motion films in recent history, the animation holds up much better than the CGI animation of the same time, and the charm of the British perspective that saturates the film, sets it apart from a lot of other American films. It’s such a unique and special film in the DreamWorks animation library, you owe it to yourself to see it.