Three times, Nick Park, the genius behind Aardman Animation, has gone to the Oscars. Three times, he’s worn a different coloured bow tie. Three times, he’s left with the little gold fella — all for shorts featuring his inspired stop-motion creations, Wallace and Gromit. Well, their first big-screen outing has added about 50 minutes to the running time, but thankfully that’s all that’s changed — for this consistently hilarious slice of Britannia will surely win the Best Animated Feature award next year.
Of course, credit should also go to co-director Steve Box. For almost five years, the duo have locked themselves away to craft the1 first W&G tale since 1995’s A Close Shave. That’s a heck of a long time to keep gags fresh, but thanks to a beautifully modulated script, truly cinematic camerawork and editing, and astonishing animation, they’ve done it.
Were-Rabbit was funded by US behemoth DreamWorks Animation, yet it retains a charming homespun quality, fusing Ealing comedy tropes and Hammer horror conventions (don’t be scared — the Were-Rabbit is as cute as a bag of Jessica Albas) into a near dementedly British tone, augmented by a Pixar-level script that mixes killer sight gags, world-class punnery and ace one-liners.
However, the comedy is never indulged at the expense of the plot, which flies off in genuinely unexpected directions, culminating in a boundlessly inventive funfair chase sequence.
The supporting cast are clearly having fun but never overshadow the central pairing, Wallace enjoying a spot of romance, while Gromit gets all the cool action scenes. It’s a tribute to Aardman that Gromit, who doesn’t even have a mouth, conveys a cavalcade of emotion, from courage to suspicion to terror and, crucially, sadness, as Park uses those puppy dog eyes to elicit a few tears. Best pick out that coloured dicky now, Nick…