Nick Park | 29 mins | TV | PG
Wallace and Gromit are phenomenally popular, as proven this Christmas Day when their latest adventure became the most-watched programme on British TV for three years (and that was just the overnights — ratings will rise when official figures are released in a couple of weeks). Not only that, but the TV premiere of their big screen adventure also made the Christmas Day top ten, a not insignificant feat. Popularity does not necessarily mean quality, of course, and in this case such figures come on the back of three popular shorts and a successful feature film. They were all extremely good too and, luckily, A Matter of Loaf and Death doesn’t let the batch down. (I feel there should be a better baking pun there…)
As ever it’s packed with inventive humour, both visual and verbal, and Gromit remains one of the finest silent comedy characters ever created. The amount of emotion and story that can be conveyed with a lump of plasticine is tribute to the abilities of Park and his team of animators. The rest of the creation is top notch too, not just in terms of impressive craft on characters and sets, but also in the use of lighting and camera angles to evoke other films while not losing the series’ individuality. If anyone still thinks stop motion is about a locked-off camera at a flat angle they are sorely mistaken.
Film fans will also delight in a slew of movie references, from a poster for Citizen Canine to an Aliens-inspired climax, and numerous even subtler ones in between. This is a feast that will undoubtedly reward seconds — and more.
If there’s one problem it’s that it’s too short. I don’t mean that in the usual “I just want more” way, but literally that it could perhaps do with being longer. There’s easily a feature-length story here, meaning it feels a little abridged as a half-hour short. It’s not rushed, thankfully, just not played out as effectively as it could be with double the running time.
The last three Wallace & Gromit adventures have each won Park an Oscar (and the first only lost out to Park’s own Creature Comforts). Will this bring the series’ fourth? It would certainly be deserved.