There will be those who claim that the best thing about Nick Park and Steve Box’s magnificent Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the distinctively British humour – this is a film full of brilliant groan-inducing puns, Heath-Robinson contraptions, buck-toothed vicars and the occassional sea-side postcard moment of double entendre. Whether American audiences will have a clue what PC McIntosh is on about when he announces that the town has been the victim of “arson… Yeah. Someone arsin’ around” I don’t know. And, honestly, I don’t care. I do know, however, that I snorted popcorn down my nose the first time I heard it. And that I did again when the same character gets to shout “Watch out for the giant rabbit dropping” near the end of the film – and it hurt both times.

There will be others who will point to the beautiful, pain-staking, animation. It is famously filmed at just three seconds of footage per day and yet each frame is so crammed with incidental detail that you have to wonder whether it isn’t actually the result of some unforgiving obsessive-compulsive disorder. I love the bookshelf full of tomes with titles that pun on cheese (East of Edam) and Lady Tottington’s family crest (motto: Manure Sets Us Free) and I especially love the demented rabbits that fill so many background shots. I have watched The Curse of the Were-Rabbit three times now and each viewing reveals more and more detail and invention.

Fewer, perhaps unfairly, will credit the cast for the film’s success. But Wallace would not be Wallace without the enthusiasm and talent of Peter Sallis who provides his voice and while the supporting cast (Fiennes, Bonham Carter, Kay and the rest) are, without fail, pitch-perfect in their delivery of a finely crafted script. Fiennes, in particular, deserves mention as he gives the cruel-hearted Victor Quartermaine an extra-thick layer of unctious unpleasantness.

And, make no mistake, all these factors contribute to making this a wonderfully entertaining film. It works on every level – it is superb entertainment for small children, for whom Gromit is an irresistible attraction, beautifully animated and delivering all of the films best visual jokes. But it also entertains adults. It offers sumptuously rich visuals that reward numerous viewings – handy if you’ve got small children – and it contains a beautifully paced plot that twists and turns to its inevitable feel-good ending.

But, for me, the best thing about Wallace and Gromit has always been the obvious love of cinema – and particularly genre cinema – with which Nick Park suffuses every moment of this adventure.

From the very beginning, on their rocket to the moon in A Grand Day Out, Wallace and Gromit have drawn upon genre film history. A Grand Day Out references everyone from George Méliès (A Trip to the Moon) to Nathan Juran (First Men in the Moon) by way of Spielberg and fifties sci-fi.

In Curse of the Were-Rabbit, they plunder elements from sources as diverse as King Kong, Watership Down and even the American remake of Godzilla. And, perhaps most remarkably, the Aardman team succeed in incorporating this material in a final product that is cohesive and undeniably original.

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit owes its greatest debt to British horror films of the late fifties and early sixties, such as those that emerged from the studios of Hammer Films. One sequence stands out, as the town’s vicar is hunted in his own church by a monster intent on raiding the harvest festival offerings. The plot, design and script are all full of references to Hammer horrors. Indeed, in places, the homage that the filmmakers clearly intend rather backfires on the object of their affection. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a so much more accomplished piece of cinema that most of the Hammer films the hark back to – despite their many fine qualities – are left looking rather pallid.

The Curse of the Were-Rabbit was as enjoyable an experience as I’ve had in a cinema for a long time. Innocent, uplifting, fun, that was entertaining, intelligent, hilarious… I could exhaust a thesaurus searching for the sufficient words.

I loved every minute. Aardman Animation have delivered a film that can stand tall amongst any company. This is a special film that will appeal to adults and children and entertain both handsomely. Now, excuse me while I get the last of that popcorn out of my nose.

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