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Saturday, 27 December 2008

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf And Death, BBC1


Did we like it?
A plot so thin Bob Geldof would be inspired to write a song about it and rally the whole world to a benefit concert, characterisation so crude it makes Og the Neanderthal’s cave paintings resemble Van Gogh, dialogue so clumsy it seems to have been arranged with all the artful skill of the shards of a shattered plane falling from the sky. We adored it.

What was good about it?
• Many of the more conventional statutes of drama don’t apply with Wallace and Gromit. Elements such as plot and character act merely as a loose framework to link the ingenious action set pieces, of which there were three or four of typical brilliant imagination.
• The first saw Wallace and Gromit save the dastardly serial killer Piella Bakewell after the brakes on her bike ‘failed’ leaving her to hurtle down a hill at breakneck speed. Wallace leapt from his delivery van on to the front wheel of Piella’s bike and tried to slow her down using tea cakes as an abrasive brake.
• It didn’t work and the whole lot of them crashed into the wall of the crocodile enclosure in the zoo, catapulting them into the pit where the hungry reptile awaited. The heroic Gromit pulled Piella’s dog Fluffles from the crocodile’s mouth with all the comic elasticity you would expect from inventive animations.
• The rising loafs in Wallace and Gromit’s bakery to symbolise Wallace’s engorged state. A bit Carry On…, but charming nonetheless.
• Gromit’s heightened sense of security when he discovers Piella plans to make Wallace her 13th murder victim. He deposits all metal objects in the shed, with a sign on the door saying “WMD”.
• The second action sequence saw Gromit try and save his master as Piella prepared to push him into the mechanical deathtrap of the bakery.
• The denouement in which Piella had planted a bomb in a cake for Wallace. After escaping Piella’s dungeon with the equally valorous Fluffles, Gromit ties to put out the fuse by throwing a vase of water over Wallace. When that fails, he grabs the bomb to dispose of it out a window but is thwarted initially by a lake of cute ducks, and then by nuns carrying kittens.
• But as he prepares to throw it out of another window and out of Yorkshire, Piella hits him with a spade, leaving a cartoon impression of the intrepid hound in the metal.
• And then it all goes a bit odd, as the final battle of Aliens is played out between Fluffles (in the Ripley role) and Piella (as the ravenous Alien queen). In all the confusion, the bomb gets stuck in Wallace’s trousers, and so Gromit hilariously pumps his britches full of dough to stifle the explosion. In the distance, Piella meets a gruesome end when the balloon on which she made her escape sags under her portly frame and descends into the lair of the crocodile.
• The animation was as superb as ever.

What was bad about it?
• As we’ve said the plot was highly predictable, and drew on so many other films and narrative stereotypes that it was little more than a unkempt patchwork.
• Meanwhile, the dialogue fulfilled the role as a frayed link between the action sequences as Wallace and Piella’s courtship was as convincingly realised as Peter Andre and Jordan’s. It was thanks to the excellent Peter Sallis and Sally Lindsay that it retained a comic edge; else it would have detached the viewer from caring about the characters.

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