November 15th, 2005


Wallace & Gromit & Sweetness

A coupla months ago goudabonbon fled to the mountains for a full weekend with her Mothers & More friends, abandoning Sweetness and me for, like, almost 60 hours. One of the things we did that weekend was see a Saturday morning screening of 'Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.' Evelyn very much likes 'Wallace & Grommit' (so do my sister's kids -- I gave my neice the three shorts on DVD for her birthday a few years ago), and I had the chance to see the movie at a night screening earlier that week, letting me take notes for my review without having to neglect my daughter. I honestly did not think 'Were-Rabbit' had anything in it that Sweetness couldn't handle. Really.

[On soundtrack: dramatic sting]

So Sweetness and I were watching 'Were-Rabbit' and I could tell she liked it. Because she gave subtle clues, like the words "I like this movie" during one of the scenes with the little rabbits. She watched a Major Characters lycanthropic transformation to a hulking rabbit with nary a peep. Then she seemed a little restless, so I asked her if she wanted to take a break and go outside. She said yes.

So here's where I went wrong:
1. Sweetness didn't want to just go outside the theater, she wanted be outdoors, so we stood on upper level walkway of Parkway Pointe for a little while (and had to pound on the locked glass door like Dustin Hoffman at the end of 'The Graduate' so the worthless employees would deign to stand up and let us back in). So it seemed like she was sort of ready to move on.
2. Sweetness' toleration of "shows" is usually about an hour. She loves the just-under-an-hour plays at the Center for Puppetry Arts, but at earlier movie experiences (Pooh's Heffalump Movie and Robots) she lost entrance around the 60-minute mark, which we'd just passed.
3. She saw popcorn at the concession stand and wanted some, but I talked her into going back to the movie.

So we make our way (across a couple of people) back to the seat, and shortly thereafter the Major Character starts transforming into the Were-Rabbit again, and Sweetness FREAKS, clutching my shirt and demanding "I-wanna-go-outside!" So I bundled her out as quickly as possible and was able to get some popcorn from the halfway-decent employee they had working there.

APART from that incident, though, it was a lovely weekend. I hope she remembers that my intentions were good when she describes the episode to her future therapist.

I remembered that because I got from the library the new Wallace & Grommit DVD, which re-releases their three major shorts ('A Grand Day Out,' 'A Close Shave,' and 'The Wrong Trousers') along with 10 new shorts of around 2 minutes a piece, collectively called 'Cracking Contraptions.' I remember when the 'Contraptions' became available on-line in Fall of 2002 and very nearly shelled out the $10 to view them all, but balked, first out of being skittish of paying for stuff on-line (I'm mellower about it now); then because it was pretty obvious that 'Contraptions' would resurface as a DVD extra in the fullness of time. And sure enough.
(BTW, Entertainment Weekly groused about the DVD because it replaces 'The Wrong Trousers' use of 'How Much is That Doggie In the Window' and 'The Happy Birthday Song' with stuff that sounds more generic-public domain. It always seems obsessive and pointless to get exercised over stuff so mundane -- but in this case they have a point. The film's better WITH the original music.)

We watched 'Cracking Contraptions' last night -- and they're terrific! And they feel more faithful to the spirit of Wallace & Gromit than 'Curse of the Were-Rabbit' actually does. I'm crazy about them: "The Wrong Trousers" is one of my favorite films. I vividly remember seeing it at one of the AFF animation evenings, having no idea what it was, and roaring with helpless laughter -- it's one of those hardest-times-I've-ever-laughed milestones. But 'Were-Rabbit' I liked less than 'Chicken Run.' It's got great classic monster/horror movie set pieces, but some of the puns are just plain bad, and I just don't really LIKE the were-rabbit story. It's not that it's a bad movie, it's just not a great one.

But 'Cracking Contraptions' -- which total out at more than 20 minutes (they all have a quick, rudimentary closing credits scene) -- perfectly nails that deadpan Britishness and Rube Goldberg ingenuity that somehow didn't translate to the big screen. Maybe Wallace & Gromit only shine in short forms, I dunno. The Soccamatic, The Snoozatron, The Snowmanotron -- all great. Sweetness WAS a little scared by "The Bully Proof Vest" short, necessitating a quick fast forward. But I think Wallace and Gromit are back in her good graces.
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    Does the Wallace & Gromit theme have a name?