Well, after the long wait and the high hopes for the first Wallace & Gromit feature film, I have to say that I was, frankly, disappointed with CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT. It's not as good as THE WRONG TROUSERS; it's not as good as A CLOSE SHAVE; it's not even as good as CHICKEN RUN (the previous feature film from Aardman Animation). But at least it's good.
I don't know what went wrong, but I suspect that DreamWorks, the American distributor, held a heavier hand on this production than they did on CHICKEN RUN. The humor in the film seems slightly cruder, more blunt, without as much of the quirky British sensibility that made the Wallace & Gromit short subjects so endearing.
Which is not to say it isn't there; there's just not enough of it. Basically, the film feels a bit like a sequel where all the stuff that worked before is stitched back together and hyped up even bigger than before. In this case, this means there are several fast-paced action scenes that play out quite well, but the plot and characterizaton suffer slightly in the effort to make the stop-motion subject matter exciting enough for the big screen.
Fortunately, most of the weakness is displayed early in the film, which feels padded and frantic at the same time -- trying hard to grab audience attetenion with some manic antics while not really going anywhere fast. Once the were-rabbit plot fully emerges after the too-long set, however, the film hits its stride, and its mostly a smooth run from there, with lots of laughs and clever sight gags and some impressively staged stop-motion sequences that play to the strengths of director Nick Park and his famous creations.
Overall, the film is definitely worth seeing, especially if you're a fan, and children will probably love it. But if I were trying to convert some neophyte into a Wallace & Gromit fan, I'd haul out the old films on home video before sending them off to watch this one on the big screen.
CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT is preceded by a CGI short subject "The Madagasgar Penguins in A Christmas Caper." It seems like a great idea, because the penguins were easily the best thing in MADAGASCAR, and the short subject is actually an improvement on the feature film. Still, it is not quite as hysterical as it intends to be The character voices and sight gags are quite amusing, but the character design and computer-generated animation are not that great. Still, whatever the shortcomings of the CGI, the penguin characters are a great comedy team, and it's good to see them shine in their own little movie.