The quality of a kid's movie isn't best measured by how much a kid likes it. In truth, kids will sit through anything animated - except maybe a cartoon version of the News Hour with Jim Lehrer. No, the true test of a kids' flick comes with what the parents think.
Wallace (Peter Sallis) wouldn't know what to do without his faithful dog Gromit by his side.
Here lately, we parents (I have two toddlers) have been treated to lots of movies that please little ones and adults alike. Films like Toy Story, Monsters Inc. or The Incredibles are simple and fast-paced enough for kids but include subtexts and subtle humor that appeal to people over 7. Tim Burton's two kids' films released this year - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Corpse Bride - continue another excellent trend of offbeat movies with dark undertones adults often enjoy.
So, with all of the hype about the new Wallace and Gromit movie, I expected it to be one all four of us would enjoy. Didn't turn out that way. The kids, of course, were satisfied. My son loved the ever-silent claymation dog, Gromit, who is like almost all domestic pets in kids' movies: smarter than his owner.
Wallace is a Brit version of Inspector Gadget crossed with Dr. Frankenstein. Like all the people in the movie, he looks like something from Gary Larson's old Far Side comics. Unlike Larson's work, there's nothing interesting about Wallace or the other human characters here. There's the obligatory villain, Victor Quartermaine, who wants to shoot the rabbits trying to eat the town's prize vegetables before the big fair and who, of course, wants to marry the only female character in the movie. That'll put you on the edge of your seat.
Sure, the movie has cute qualities with the little bunnies - my daughter's favorite - captured by Wallace and Gromit and brainwashed into not craving vegetables. Only when one brainwashing session goes - big surprise - horribly wrong, does the enormous Were-Rabbit arrive, putting all vegetables in peril.
Ultimately, the Wallace and Gromit story is too tame, lacking any layer targeted at adults. Throwing in a couple of double entendres about boobs and nuts didn't cut it. And attempts at referencing other movies - like Harvey and King Kong - felt clichéd and fell flat.
If you haven't seen The Corpse Bride and are choosing between the two, go to Burton's film and wait for Wallace and Gromit on video. That way you can create a subtext of your own by reading a good book while the kids watch this movie.