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DVD Pick: "Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"

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The voices of Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes are among those heard in "Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" (2005), a film which has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature category. The movie is suitable for children, but I expect most adults will find it delightful as well. When I watched it on DVD without any kids present, it gave me a few big laughs and a lot of chuckles, and there was a grin on my face almost all the way through.

Wallace (voice of Peter Sallis) is an eccentric, cheese-loving ("I'm just crackers about cheese!") inventor, and Gromit is his loyal dog (Gromit is silent—in fact, he doesn't have a mouth!). They were the main characters in "The Wrong Trousers" (1993) and "A Close Shave" (1995), both of which won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. However, "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" marks their debut in a feature-length movie.

As its title suggests, "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is a send-up of werewolf movies, and I would say the story is unusually strong for an animated film. The setting is one of those English communities where the residents are obsessed with gardening. There Wallace and Gromit operate a service called Anti-Pesto, which captures the rabbits that are devastating the gardens. Soon Wallace concocts a contraption he dubs the Mind Manipulation-omatic, which is supposed to cure bunnies of their antisocial veg-ravaging behavior. But things go horribly awry, and the Mind Manipulation-omatic ends up creating a giant mutant rabbit.

I still chuckle when I think about some of the jokes in the movie. For example, there's a photo of Gromit on graduation day at Dogwarts University. As a second example, consider the titles of books owned by the cheese-loving Wallace: "East of Edam," "Waiting for Gouda" and "Brie Encounter." As a final example, a clergyman pulls out a hoary old volume titled "The Observers Book of Monsters," and the author's name is Claude Savagely.

I found "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" to be very pleasing to the eye. The characters are made of Plasticine, a synthetic material resembling clay, but remaining soft, that is used for modeling. This medium helps give the movie an air of charming naiveté, and the characters' facial expressions and gestures evoke a lot of emotion in the viewer. On the DVD you can watch a model maker work with Plasticine in the featurette "How to Build a Bunny."

Perhaps the DVD bonus material that interested me most was "How Wallace & Gromit Went to Hollywood." This traces the history of the duo from their origin as the stars of Nick Park's 1982 film school project to their appearance in three shorts to "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," which was done in partnership with DreamWorks. But the movie was actually made at the Aardman Studios in Bristol, England. The DVD offers a tour of Aardman's facilities in the featurette "A Day in the Life at Aardman."

Other extras on the DVD include a feature-length audio commentary by writer-director Nick Park and writer-director Steve Box, nine deleted scenes with optional commentary and an animated short titled "Stage Fright."

All the bonus materials I've mentioned so far are aimed at adults, but the DVD also provides a few extras intended for children, and you access these by choosing DWK at the main menu. Three of these are simply very short featurettes about Wallace's goofy inventions. One of them is a game where the number keys on the remote are used to capture bunnies as they pop up out of holes. Three additional bonus materials are activities for kids.

On the next page, I've given all the details for the "Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" DVD.

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