Aardman are now established on the international animation circuit, where once they were a very British phenomenon. With Chicken Run, their appealing, wide-mouthed claymation style was introduced to a wider audience, most notably in
After mentioning affectionately that my dear ole mum mixed up the name and called it ‘Grommarsh and Wurzel’, I wrote that the film ‘follows Wallace and his loyal, bizarrely sexualised canine life partner as they attempt to protect the town’s vegetables from a terrible furry menace. It was fun, but not quite as good as I’d hoped – not as witty or as affecting as Chicken Run, The Wrong Trousers or A Close Shave, and rather harder to swallow than any of them. Still, it made me smile throughout, and [was full of] funny references.’ I would probably have left out that part about Gromit being sexualised if I wrote today, despite the van scenes, as it’s an observation that lends itself to endless academic overanalysis and conjecture, as well as painting the duo in what may seem like a disparaging light when actually I adore them. The film has a great cast – Ralph Fiennes hamming it up, posh Helena Bonham Carter being extra-posh as ‘Totty’, and of course Peter Sallis providing Wallace’s wonderful Yorkshire accent. Like many light comedy animations, much of its humour comes from pastiche, with the title making it clear that the subject here would be horror, undermined by the fearsome creature being a bunny. A plethora of terrible rabbit-related puns ensue, the worst being ‘24-carrot bullets’, as well as the staples of the series: impressive action scenes with Gromit – one of the great mute characters of animation – having to work very hard, silly Rube Goldberg machines and a sweet obsession with silly things like cheese and vegetable competitions. It’s all delightfully English, daft and charming and pandering only very slightly to a wider audience. (Supposedly accents had to be toned down a little.)
My problem was not that it was bad – only that I had hoped it would be much better. It simply isn’t up there with the sheer brilliance of The Wrong Trousers, which remains the best outing for the characters. I wanted the concept to be on a grander scale (while of course retaining the tweeness), and there to be less viciousness about dispatching the baddie. Essentially, I think Wallace and Gromit would be much more widely-known had the film been a longer version of The Wrong Trousers. That said, I hope Nick Park gets another shot at a Wallace and Gromit feature. Indeed, many more shots – the more the better!
For all I may have felt it was underwhelming, though, it was critically lauded, and of course was an Oscar winner. I’ll leave you with what I wrote on 06.03.06, the morningafter the ceremony: ‘Fond as I am of Wallace and Gromit, I don’t think Were-Rabbit should have won against Howl’s Moving Castle. Neither of them were my favourite films from their respective makers, but Howl was certainly the better film. Then again, Spirited Away won last time, and the Academy always seems averse to rewarding the same people consecutively.'