He Said: ‘Wallace & Gromit’ strikes nearly perfect comedic balance
For as long as I’ve been watching cartoons, I think I’ve gravitated toward the ones with a little something extra for adults.It’s been more than a year since I’ve had cable (or, really, TV), and I had just rediscovered “Adult Swim” on the Cartoon Network, which is what I was watching this weekend. Looking back, it seems like kind of a no-brainer for the slow kid who had to speak adult with a house full of genius engineers. But from howling at Looney Tunes as a kid through my favorite college hangover ritual – “Animaniacs” with my suitemates – to rediscovering “Family Guy” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” after work over the past month, cartoons that reward adults with an extra joke have always appealed to me.But the Cartoon Network had me wondering if there was any animation left that’s all for kids – you know, no allusions just for the adults – before “Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” answered that question. If it’s not strictly for kids, the latest installment in the on-again off-again serial starring dimwitted genius Wallace and his silent canine companion, Gromit, aims most of its jokes at younger audiences. Refreshingly absent are the countless, cheap pop-culture in-jokes that have become the currency of the advent of computer-generated animation.The new “Wallace & Gromit” also uses computer animation, but in the same way as “Corpse Bride” (which also had Helena Bonham Carter providing one of the voices) did. Instead of relying on computers to come up with the intricate details of every scene, both stop-motion wonders use new technology to supplement their old-school animation, blending the scenes, which show the painstaking craftsmanship.There’s also a message, which might be no surprise, since some of the same people were behind “Chicken Run” in 2000. It’s subtle compared to most movie messages these days, but the new “Wallace & Gromit” is one vegetarian-friendly movie. In fact, it’s just a friendly effort all around. There’s very little anyone – kids, parents, men, women, vegetarians, liberals, conservatives – would find objectionable. Hunters probably have the most legitimate reason to complain, but even that’s a huge stretch.While all those facets would seem to create a recipe for a wonderful kids movie, it’s no sure bet from another perspective. As the saying goes, try to make everybody – kids, animation purists, vegetarians, the British – happy, and you’ll only make yourself miserable, or at least make an unfunny cartoon. But humor comes in as a bumper crop in “Were-Rabbit.”In fact, it strikes a nearly perfect balance between squeaky-dry British wit and (literally) corny slapstick – all without dumbing anything down for the kids or pitching jokes over their heads.
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