I’m a big fan of Nick Park, from the days of Creature Comforts which were such a delight to watch, but his greatest creation without any doubt have been the superbly charming and hilarious couple Wallace & Gromit.
Unfortunately we’ve had to wait a long time to see them come to the big screen, and we’ve had to rely on the shorts he’s produced of these amazing characters. I think that’s also been a huge bonus to their allure, keeping them on a tight leash and ensuring their audience is always hungry for more. Yet this also brings a negative aspect, there’s a huge fanbase for these characters, and they expect certain things from them and a certain level of quality.
Now though they’ve made that move to the big screen, and expanded their short adventures, bringing the focus of Aardman fully on the duo. Have they managed to do it? Well surely the scoring tells you something!
It really is very funny, there are so many laughs continuously through the movie that you find you just can’t stop laughing. That was my problem, and at one point when the laughs had stopped for a brief moment, I found myself giggling. A giggling that just wouldn’t stop, and it grew and grew, and before the next joke could come I found myself crying with laughter thinking of everything that had happened so far…and I found it hard to stop. That’s a good movie that can bring that reaction, and when you’re not even half way through watching.
There are a few aspects to Park’s movies, and in particular Wallace & Gromit, that I would say make them so great. The first is subtlety and observation, the flagship of which is the character of Gromit. He doesn’t speak, he doesn’t make any noise, all he has are his eyes, brow, and body posture, and with these he commands the film. Park manages to give us everything we need from this silent character through his expression. The comedy and the emotion is conveyed through the subtlest of movements and it works superbly well.
Watching the movie you have to be aware of the entire screen. Normally you’ll be guided to things in the movies, the screen won’t be cluttered too much, there won’t be many things to take your eyes away from the main clue or action. Park seems to need to look the other way with his movies. He throws extra content at his audience, there’s action in the background, to the side of the screen, even off screen, and there’s just about always something in the foreground to catch your eye. His movies are about multiple viewing and discovery, they’re layered with jokes and ancillary action.
Throughout this film there are layers of things happening on screen, jokes in the foreground maybe on a jar label and background shadows that give away action. You can imagine that for Park the movies has always been an event, and the movies he loves are ones which he wants to watch again and again. This is what shows in his movies, and in through his most beloved characters.
Then there are the bizarre and wacky inventions which Wallace make, something which is reflected in the storyline and the twists and turns of the plot, everything is bizarre and off the wall, yet it seems so perfectly normal in this world. You can imagine that inside Park is the mind of Wallace.
There’s also one more thing that make these movies so unique, and that’s the modelling and precise hand animation. I must admit I was concerned when I knew Dreamworks was involved in the making of this movie, and I thought that they would bring their computer animation experience to the forefront. What I was scared of was Wallace & Gromit becoming CGI entities, or at the smallest, CGI being used to clean up the feel that the modelling brought to the movie.
Not so. You can still see thumbprints and toolmarks on the characters, and far from distracting from the movie, this just adds so much real feeling to it and a feeling of physical depth to the characters and the scene on screen.
So what of the movie? Well I must say that the plot twist was something I had thought about well before the film was in the cinema and it came as no surprise, but that did not affect my enjoyment one little bit. Actually watching the twist unfold and the comic timing of the discovery and reactions was everything, and it had me just as sucked in as if it was a thriller, yet all the time I was laughing.
Watching the movie was fascinating in various ways. To see the animation completed, how wild the inventions are, how Wallace is going to get into trouble and Gromit get him out, where all the cross references are in the movie, and where all the jokes are! I must admit afterwards talking with my friends I couldn’t believe how much I had missed.
There’s something different in this movie than with the others, there’s a new level of adult humour in here, and I don’t mean rude jokes (although there are a couple that are just so British you can’t help laughing), I mean jokes that simply fly over kids heads but slap adults in the face. The kind you are used to seeing come out of somewhere like Pixar. This just adds even more appeal to the movie.
Okay though, let me try and be a bit negative here. I didn’t notice the voices in this movie, you know how you usually listen to the actors and see if you can recognise them? Well I was just too wrapped up in the movie to care or to notice who they were…okay, that’s not negative. Let me try again. The main plot wasn’t as strong and gripping as I’d expected, and I found myself being caught up in the side stories and the characters themselves…again…that’s not a bad thing, the film was just so much rich entertainment.
I honestly can’t think of a bad thing to say about this movie, probably the worst thing I could say is that the title sequence at the end is quite repetitive…until the final title! Really, that’s the worst I can say.
The story is a lot of fun, well set-up, well written, well executed. There’s lot’s of fantastic characters in here, not just Wallace & Gromit. There’s so much happening on screen, so many references and jokes (check out the dresses of Lady Tottingham), cheese jokes everywhere, jokes for all the family. The characters are superbly absorbing and you’ll find that you’ve taken to them before you realise. There’s just so much in this movie for everyone.
There’s so much I could say and write about, but I know it will quickly turn into a backslapping exercise for Park and Aardman, it would also just turn into a series of “this bit was really funny” and “there’s a bit when…”, and what I would rather do is tell you that this is a superb movie, to go see it, and to experience the whole thing for yourselves. I will say though that the bunnies are excellent!
The most hugest thanks to Ocean Vue Cinema for giving me the chance to see this movie. Excellent cinema with free parking and the best hotdogs in any of Edinburgh’s cinemas without a doubt.