Wednesday, November 16, 2005

WALLACE AND GROMIT, THE CORPSE BRIDE and NANNY McPHEE - kids movies you can watch without feeling like a big girl

Do you remember the days when no self-respecting adult would go to the cinema to watch a kids movie without taking an actual kid? This was back when Disney had cornered the market, producing schmaltzy fairy-tales where the handsome prince rescued the virtuous girl while cute animals did comic turns. How times have changed. Now it is the done things for adults to proudly read HARRY POTTER on the metro and discuss computer games at dinner parties (or maybe that’s just me?!). And Hollywood has not been slow to cotton on to the box-office pay-dirt that is the crossover movie.

These crossover movies usually have the bright colours and simple narrative structure that are necessary to sucker in the under-tens. But they also have a sophisticated, subversive sense of humour and knowing references to current events and cultural icons. And while they started off as kids films with added bite, such as the CGI animated Shrek, they are increasingly adult films with a comic book sensibility. KUNG FU HUSTLE and ARAHAN are both live-action martial arts movies that will spawn action dolls marketed at children. Both have the sensibility of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. We’ve seen the future, and it has big ears.

All of which is a rather long-winded introduction to my review segment on kids movies. All three are flicks that you may find yourself watching at the multiplex this weekend despite the fact that you are a twenty-something professional who hasn’t been within half a mile of a kid since 1998.
So let’s kick off with the hysterically funny box office smash WALLACE AND GROMIT-CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT. Wallace and Gromit are two well-loved British clay-mation characters. Wallace is an inventor – sort of like an old, bald, love-able Inspector Gadget – and Gromit is his long-suffering side-kick who just happens to be a dog. Gromit never speaks, but like Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, his facial expressions are side-splittingly funny.

In this, their first full-length feature, Wallace and Gromit are hired by Lady Tottington to rid her country estate of the Were-Rabbit that is ruining the garden. In the mean-time, the nasty Lord Victor Quartermaine is out to get the rabbit by less humane methods, and to marry Lady Tottington into the bargain. The humour is many-layered - slapstick comedy, sly visual jokes, British toilet humour, and spoofs of famous scenes from horror movies. In addition, the filming is superb. Though created out of clay, these characters are filmed with real cameras on real celluloid with real lighting. Believe me - this makes all the difference and this helps create one of the most visually stunning movies of the year.

Tim Burton’s THE CORPSE BRIDE is a very beautiful, charming movie but I am not sure that charm alone is enough to carry the average adult through 85 minutes of animation. The stop-motion animation looks fabulous but jokes are thin on the ground and even the running reference to the creepy actor Peter Lorre, most famous as the oleaginous Ugarte in CASABLANCA, wears thin. In fact, despite its Disney with necrophilia twist, this is a remarkably conservative movie. Boy meets girl, boy falls in live with girl, boy mistakenly marries another girl who happens to be a corpse……, they sing some jaunty songs and then it ends happily.

Next up is NANNY McPHEE, starring British luvvie, Emma Thompson (The one with Sense in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY) and Colin Firth (the *real* Mr. Darcy). Thompson plays a Nanny brought in to subdue some obnoxious kids in Sound of Music style. Every time she improves their behaviour she loses a wart. I kid you not. No self-respecting adult should go see this, and no self-respecting kid should find it funny. But NANNY McPHEE is raking in the cash, so what do I know?

WALLACE AND GROMIT and THE CORPSE BRIDE are on world-wide release. NANNY McPHEE is already on release in the UK and hits the US on the 27th January 2006 and Germany on the 9th February.


  1. We just saw Nanny Mcphee for the first time, and I think I got it all except for one line. I was hoping you could explain it. Near the beginning when Nanny Mcphee arrives, and the father opens the door and she reveals that is not with any agency, she says "government nanny", and he says "oh, government nanny". What does that mean? Is it a British thing?

  2. Hi Paul, it's been a while since I saw it, and I honestly don't remember the line. However, maybe it's a play on the phrase "nanny state". At the time, the government was catching a lot of flack for intruding in areas of our lives which you might think were areas of personal choice: fox hunting, smoking in public places etc.....I'll check with my other film buddies and get back to you.