Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit

So we took Noogs to the movies for her first such outing and saw the Wallace and Gromit movie. Noogs was very excited, especially by the star-themed decor of the lobby and the popcorn machine. I didn't like any of the previews. Chicken Little looks like another wise-cracking Disney yawn; Curious George loses the simple line-drawn look of the original and has wise-cracks; Dreamer, about a girl and her horse, looks like a heartstrings-sort of movie (no wise-cracks, though, for which I was grateful); and the new Pride and Prejudice doesn't seem to have much to do with Jane Austen's book of the same title.

(Studio execs at a meeting: We need a costume drama with familiar characters for a sure-fire holiday hit! What hasn't been done for a while? Ooh, Pride and Prejudice! I've heard of that... Let's see, way too long for your average movie-goer. Alice! Hire a scriptwriter to go over this book. Keep the same basic plot but shorten each line of dialogue. Just the essence, you understand, and none of that stilted language -- nobody talks that way! Make sure the girl's a feminist -- just add something in, the usual. Hey, wait, there's no sex scene!)

The movie itself was generally charming. Wallace and Gromit depend on a range of Rube Goldberg contraptions to keep gardens rabbit-free in the days before the Giant Vegetable Competition, hosted by Lady Tottington (whose hair and teeth must be seen to be believed). Lady Tottington's gun-crazy suitor Victor wants to be rid of rabbits and Wallace. His big chance comes when the Were-Rabbit, created by a freak accident in Wallace's laboratory, goes on the rampage. Can Gromit save the day? And so forth. Gromit is by far my favorite character, and he's given plenty to do. Watch for the scene where he and his rival canine fight on a coin-operated airplane -- you've seen this sort of thing done before, but with Gromit it's pure gold.

As most reviewers have noted, there are a few gags that feel "off" -- too adult or suggestive for the overall tone of Wallace and Gromit. The most irritating of these, I thought, was a brief glimpse of the Vicar's "Nun Wrestling!" magazine. However, it's my considered opinion that most of these would go over a small child's head, and I didn't feel that Noogs picked up on any of them. Fortunately these moments were few and brief, and on the whole cleverer than almost any gag in most other modern children's movies.

What did alarm Noogs were the transformations of the Were-Rabbit. She was frightened and whimpering, and I almost took her out of the theater. The moments passed (the rabbit transforms twice) and she seemed to be fine afterwards. I held her on my lap during the rest of the movie, but nothing seemed to bother her after that. When talking about the movie afterwards, she didn't mention being scared, and didn't have any nightmares that night, so I hope it wasn't too much for her. For the record, I don't think an older child (Noogs is 3 1/2) would be quite as frightened. I wouldn't have thought that it was any scarier than the robotic dog in "A Close Shave", which she's watched a number of times, but Noogs does like to know what's coming, so perhaps it was just that she didn't know what was going to happen.

If anyone else has seen the movie, feel free to weigh in with your opinions.


Julie D. said...

We'll be seeing it this weekend so can't offer more, except that as our kids are teenagers we're hopefully going to be without nightmares. :-)

However, I do remember taking Hannah and Rose to see The Lion King. When Simba's father fell to his death (oh I was furious at Disney for showing that), Hannah got up and wanted to leave the theater. She was maybe ... 6? She watched the rest of the movie on my lap.

On the other hand, Rose, at 4 years old sat there munching popcorn the entire time not bothered one whit by the whole thing. So it also depends on the kids.

Anonymous said...

One difference between seeing the robotic dog in "A Close Shave" and seeing the transformation of the Were-Rabbit may have been the fact that one was on the small screen and the other was on the large screen. I think that things seem less intense (even to grown-ups) on the small screen because it fills up less of your field of vision.

Of course, the idea of something like a rabbit transforming into something else is an inherently scarier idea to a child than a robot dog. (Of course, on first viewing one doesn't know the dog is a robot until he's unmasked so maybe the rabbit isn't inherently scarier...)