It's nearly time for the 517th annual Tottington Hall Giant Vegetable competition. Everyone is growing vegetables as big as they can, from pumpkins to carrots and everything in between. Even Gromit is growing his own huge marrow, warming it with his electric blanket. Of course, giant vegetables bring big rabbit problems, so Wallace and Gromit have gone into business again, this time as Anti-Pesto.

But then, four days before the competition, a new terror strikes the town, a terror that even Anti-Pesto cannot take care of. It's the Were-rabbit, bigger than any bunny ever before encountered. It terrorises the town and eats vegetables galore. It's only active at night, and it's a threat to the competition.

So, how do you catch a very big rabbit? With a very big trap. The problem is, Wallace's inventive mind is starting to lose its strength, and Anti-Pesto's attempts fail at first. Lady Tottington, the owner of Tottington Hall, commissions Victor Quartermaine, a less humane pest controller, to take out the Were-rabbit before the competition starts.

WARNING: This next bit contains spoilers. If you intend to see this movie, do not read any further. You have been warned.

Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, aka The Great Vegetable Plot, was produced by Aardman Animations and directed by Steve Box (director and writer of Stage Fright) and Nick Park (director of the other Wallace and Gromit titles), who together also created Chicken Run, another great classic.

This film is Nick Park's best triumph so far. With plenty of obvious cliches, plot twists (like Wallace turning out to be the big bunny!) and in-series jokes, as well as some original matter, Curse Of The Were-Rabbit is a great film to be enjoyed by all Wallace and Gromit fans... and other people too, whoever they may be.

Keep your eye out for: Some time ago, a computer virus was released to coincide with Michelangelo's 517th birthday. The Were-rabbit was created to coincide with the 517th vegetable competition. I will be very surprised if this reference is a coincidence...

My rating: 9/10

If you've seen and loved all three of the Wallace and Gromit short films "A Grand Day Out," "The Wrong Trousers," and "A Close Shave," you may be quite excited about the new Nick Park/Aardman Animations film "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" but nervous about its ability to maintain the quality of the three exemplary shorts for all of its eighty-five minutes. To you I say: Have no fear. The film perfectly continues the legacy of Park's earlier W&G productions and—in my opinion—far surpasses his first feature-length film, the slightly underwhelming Chicken Run.

On the other hand, you may have heard of this "Wallace and Gromit" stuff, and you may or may have not have heard of the W&G shorts that were made in the 1990s (actually, I guess you have now), but you might not know exactly what all the fuss is about. So you might be a little worried that if you see "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," you won't have the background to know who the characters are and what is going on. To you I say also: Have no fear. The movie does plenty by way of acquainting you with the two main characters, and it won't take long for you to be just as comfortable as the devotees.

And to said devotees, who worry that the movie may spend too much time introducing you to characters you already know and love: I said have no fear, all right? This is no Serenity or X-Files movie; three films totaling an hour and a half in length do not a huge backstory make. The introduction to Wallace and Gromit is no longer than it needs to be, and it is plenty enjoyable in its own right. Besides, the pair is in a new industry now, which will require a bit of exposition even for you.

The plot? Ok, I have to preface this with something: You don't really go see a Wallace and Gromit film for the plot. That said, there won't be any spoilers of any significance here.

Don't get me wrong, the W&G plots aren't bad, but they're usually fairly basic and at least partly derived from old standbys: "The Wrong Trousers," for example, is very noir. "Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is heavy on the monster movie melodrama, as might be inferred from its title, and as with previous W&G movies its appeal derives largely from how the two titular characters react to and reshape some of the clichés of the genre.

Monster movie takeoff though it may be, "Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is rated G, and you won't be seeing carnage of anything other than vegetables. Those veggies are used to great effect, though, and there are a couple of almost creepy moments which are enhanced by the movie's consistent and authentic atmosphere.

Still, the premise is fairly silly: a town's vegetables are threatened by a plague of rabbits! Unless the huge, mysterious über-rabbit is stopped, the 517th Vegetable Competition at Tottington Hall will be ruined! The dastardly hunter Victor Quartermaine wants to kill the rabbits and steal away Wallace's romantic interest! Oh no! There's simply no way the movie would be too scary for many small children.

The style has not changed that much from the original three W&G shorts. The fact that this is a major motion picture has smoothed over a few of the rough edges and added a smidgen of computer animation. But it hasn't effaced the thumbprints on Wallace and Gromit's faces, deliberate indications of the care that went into every frame. The wonderful paradox about the look of this movie is the extent to which it has been polished while still feeling very handcrafted.

The humor in "Curse of the Were-Rabbit" is understated but devastatingly effective; some of the jokes had me laughing harder than I can remember doing at any movie for years. And when the occasional bad pun falls flat, there is always Gromit to turn comedic lead into gold. Let's just say that never before has a dog rolling his eyes been used so many times to such great effect.

Finally, consider yourself warned: I was a bit surprised at how risqué some of the comedy was for a G-rated Wallace and Gromit movie. But it's tasteful and not at all pervasive, and I suspect that it will go over the heads of most kids who haven't already been hopelessly corrupted.

So let's look at what "Wallace and Gromit and The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" has going for it. Suitable for devotees and neophytes alike? Check. Consistent in atmosphere, plot and mood? Basically, yes. Lovingly and meticulously handmade and visually appealing? You bet. Hilarious and clever and charming and delightful in basically every possible way? Yup.

With all that, how can I avoid recommending this movie to anyone who'll listen to me?

I can't. It's absolutely great. Go see it.

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