I’m hopping a bit off the beaten path with this month’s Full Moon Feature, but with Early Man now in theaters, I can’t think of a better time to watch a cheese-loving inventor and his long-suffering pooch grapple with The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Made in 2005, it was the second feature for Aardman Animations after 2000’s Chicken Run and the first big-screen adventure for their signature characters, Wallace and Gromit. Directed by their creator Nick Park and Steve Box, the film amply illustrates the dangers of hooking yourself up to a Mind Manipulator-omatic and then plugging it into a BunVac filled with pesky rabbits and trying to brainwash them into not liking vegetables under the light of the full moon. There’s just so many ways something like that can go so, so wrong, as man and his best friend alike soon learn.
How it comes to that is simple: In the lead-up to their town’s annual Giant Vegetable Competition, everyone has signed up with Anti-Pesto, Wallace (voiced as always by Peter Sallis) and Gromit’s high-tech “Humane Pest Control” service. Their non-lethal methods especially impress animal lover Lady Campanula Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter), who has to fend off aggressive blueblood Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), who resents the competition. However, after Wallace’s attempt at bunny brainwashing backfires, he literally creates a monster that is identified by Reverend Hedges (Nicholas Smith, Mr. Rumbold from Are You Being Served?) as the titular beast, carrotus apetitus giganticus. No points for guessing who it turns out to be.
Park and Box and their co-writers Mark Burton and Bob Baker pack as many vegetable puns as they can into the proceedings (under the headline “Night of Vegetable Carnage!” there’s the delicious subhead “Anti-Pesto Fail to Turnip in Time”), and they also managed to smuggle a few naughty jokes past the MPAA. (“Beware the moon,” indeed.) Even better, they work in numerous allusions to classic horror films, with my favorite being when the beast is vanquished and it returns to human form with the aid of a series of lap dissolves, just like in the old Lon Chaney, Jr. movies. I know that’s hardly extraordinary considering the entire film is stop-motion animated, but the gesture is appreciated.