Mar 1, 2013

[Movies] Wallace and Gromit: The Complete Collection (2009)

Aardman Animations have blessed the creative world with a wide variety of stop-motion animated features and a few CGI features to boot. But no other characters can be considered quite as iconic as Wallace & Gromit, although I can imagine a new generation of Shaun the Sheep fans may argue with me about that point.

The Wallace & Gromit franchise has won numerous awards for its various short films and various collections have been released over the years. This latest one collects all of the short films released to-date, including the latest one being A Matter of Loaf and Death.

But I will always feel that the success of the series relies heavily on the quirky and yet witty humor inherent to the series together with the beautiful claymation used to give them life. These particular movies really helped define the sort of signature style of Aardman Animations and influences all later releases - especially with respect to the teeth.

Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Collection compiles the 4 different short films released in the franchise. All four movies were written and directed by Nick Park with Bob Baker also contributing to the writing of the 3 latter films.

The first up is A Grand Day Out, which was nominated for Best Animated Short Film by the Academy Awards. Here we first meet the quirky pair of friends, this being Wallace (Peter Sallis) and his faithful dog Gromit. And no, Gromit never speaks. The two are considering where to go for a holiday and eventually decide to go to the moon, given Wallace's rather extreme love of cheese. Wallace is a bit of an inventor and thus proceeds to create a rocket to take them to the moon on their little cheese expedition.

The second film is The Wrong Trousers, which admittedly is my favorite of all the short films released. It's Gromit's birthday but Wallace hasn't been doing too well financially. What he has manged is to acquire a pair of ex-NASA "Techno Trousers" that can take Gromit on walks on its own. To help make ends meet, Wallace leases out the spare room to add a little extra income. But to his surprise, his ad is answered by a penguin - one who quickly endears himself to Wallace, much to Gromit's frustrations. But naturally, not everything is as it seems. Naturally, this movie won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1993 and holds a 100% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes.

The third film was A Close Shave and is the first time that we see Wallace and Gromit holding a job. This time around they're window cleaners. Sometime in the night a sheep escapes from a passing truck and finds its way into Wallace and Gromit's home. This sheep is actually an escapee of sorts from a sheep rustling-scheme that somehow involves Wendolene Ramsbottom (Anne Reid), who is Wallace's latest infatuation as well. This movie also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1996. And the sheep in question also went on to have his own TV series as Shaun the Sheep.

The latest movie is A Matter of Loaf and Death, which is patterned after your classic murder mysteries. This time around it seems that a "Cereal Killer" is killing bakers all over the city. And now it just so happens that Wallace & Gromit have gotten into the baking business with their "Dough to Door" bread delivery service. In the course of their duties they bump into Piella Bakewell (Sally Lindsay), who was once the iconic "Bake-o-Lite" girl seen flying around on her balloon as the mascot of the company. Wallace's old crush on her is rekindled while Gromit remains focused on trying to figure out who has been killing all the bakers before Wallace becomes the next potential victim.

All of the movies are entertaining in their own right and fans of the franchise are bound to argue endless about which one is the best. And while I will forever hold out that The Wrong Trousers is the best (I have a thing for penguins, too), I have to admit that A Close Shave was pretty darn funny too.

There's an undeniably endearing quality about the buddy interactions of Wallace and Gromit. They're undeniably British in how they deal with the world, although I personally love how Wallace's tinkering evolved into full-on mad genius inventions. And of course there's the ever-silent Gromit who is clearly more intelligent but absolutely loyal to Wallace at the same time. He may not always follow Wallace's orders, but he always acts with Wallace's best interests at heart.

Plus Gromit is just so adorable. And you can't deny how amazing it is how he manages to convey so much emotion with minimal movements and those ever-so-expressive eyes. And they're not 100% human expressions either - more often than not they look like the kind of faces you'd see your own dog make when you least expect it.

So let's round-up some ratings:

  • A Grand Day Out - 4/5 for a fun little adventure
  • The Wrong Trousers - 5/5 since I have never laughed so hard in my life
  • A Close Shave - 4/5 for Shaun
  • A Matter of Loaf and Death - 4/5

If you haven't seen the Wallace & Gromit movies or you have and you just love them to bits, then this is definitely something you'll want to add to your collection post-haste!

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