Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) is a cheerfully vague bachelor whose obsession for dreaming up elaborate contraptions almost equals his fondness for cheese. (His bookshelf contains such volumes as East of Edam, Brie Encounter and Fromage to Eternity.) Gromit, his master’s fretful servant and savior, mutely conveys his always justified anxiety via minuscule twitches of the most eloquent movie eyebrows since Groucho’s. In three short films — A Grand Day Out, the all-time fabulous The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave — Aardman Films’ Nick Park created sublime comedy through the insanely intricate form of animation known as stop-motion, in which plasticine creatures and tiny props must be posed for a single frame, then moved infinitesimally for the next. The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the series’ expansion to feature length that Park co-directed with Steve Box, contains 122,400 shots (based on 24,000 storyboards), which explains why this mini-masterpiece took five years to make.
To protect the vegetable crops in his village and win the approval of dear Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter), Wallace has invented the Bun-Vac 6000, which scoops up rabbits, painlessly, by the hundreds. (“It blows and sucks.”) But his machine is no match for the mysterious, vegemaniacal Were-Rabbit ravaging the town. The movie has some vigorous action scenes: Gromit’s World War I–style aerial combat with another canine (a real dogfight) and Lady Tottington’s housetop confrontation with the dread Were-Rabbit. The priceless exchanges, though, are between man and dog — both in the empyrean of comic artists, as are their creators.