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Movie round-up: 'Wallace and Gromit' and 'Serenity'

On October 11, 2005

Wallace and Gromit: The Cure of the Were-Rabbit - 5 StarsDirected by Steve Box and Nick Park

Starring Peter Sallis, Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.

Anyone who was fortunate enough to see the Wallace and Gromit shorts in their childhood-A Grand Day Out (1989), The Wrong Trousers (1993) and A Close Shave (1995)-is bound to recall them fondly. These lovable little films, showcasing the Claymation adventures of the cheese-obsessed inventor Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) and his silent, faithful and infinitely wiser canine companion Gromit, are filled to the brim with creator Nick Park's distinctive blend of plucky British wit and heart. Now, after years of production, the duo's first feature-length film, Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, has finally "hopped" into theaters. The question is: Can it possibly live up to the series' spotless track record of beloved family hits?

Hell yes! Curse of the Were-Rabbit is the type of kid's movie that makes you want to run out and start a family, just so you'll have someone else to introduce to this fantastic world. Though it's a terrible clich by now, there really is something for everyone in Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

It takes an icy spirit not to warm to the lovable plot, in which Wallace and Gromit, newly organized into the pest-control company Anti-Pesto, attempt to capture the mysterious garden-pillaging Were-Rabbit (in a humane manner, of course) before he ruins Lady Tottington's (Helena Bonham Carter) annual Giant Vegetable Competition. As is the case in many family films nowadays, the jokes here are both silly enough for the kids and clever enough for the adults-but Curse of the Were-Rabbit goes the extra mile, relying on brilliantly thought-out set pieces rather than irony and snarky pop culture references.

That said, older filmgoers are bound to dig the loving nods to classic Universal horror films (the interplay between Wallace and Gromit, the townspeople and the savagely herbivorous Were-Rabbit precisely mimics the brave heroes/frightened villagers/misunderstood monster format) and the subtly cheeky humor (the MPAA has benevolently let Curse of the Were-Rabbit go by with a G-rating despite quite a few deliriously naughty gags). If you're already a fan of Wallace and Gromit, you can guess why it gets the full five stars. If you haven't been initiated yet, snap to it!

-Jennifer Morrow

Serenity 4 Stars

Directed by Joss Whedon

Starring Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres.

For fans of the short-lived show Firefly, Serenity ends a long wait for satisfaction. Axed by the FOX network in 2002 after only 11 episodes, Firefly had been the latest brain child of Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), but lacked the ratings necessary for survival in its competitive timeslot. When a DVD set of the first and only season did extremely well, Whedon decided to try to take his series to the big screen. Surprisingly, Serenity, the final product, should appeal to not only to the initiated Firefly geek, but just about everyone else as well.

The movie more or less touches upon the plot of the first season of the show, with the key actors reprising their roles. Nathan Fillion returns as the tough-as-nails Malcolm "Mal" Reynolds, a rebel fighter-turned-small-time crook and captain of the Starship Serenity. Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk, Jewel Staite and the particularly hilarious Adam Baldwin form his lovably ragtag crew of fellow bandits. Although their roles are a little archetypal (the techie, the badass warriors, the pilot, etc.) they pull them off with gusto, much to the constant amusement of the audience.

Serenity takes place some 500 years from now, in a future where the majority of humanity is united under the authoritarian Alliance government. It's those outsiders in the minority, however, who make up our heroes-most notably the troubled and tortured psychic River (Summer Glau) and her physician brother Simon (Sean Maher). Much of the film follows an arc from Firefly in which the siblings, fleeing from Alliance scientists who are interested in experimenting on River, attempt to take refuge on board the Serenity. As Mal struggles between his desire to turn a profit and keep his passengers safe, the crew finds themselves hounded by a relentless Alliance Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

The plot follows a fairly standard sci-fi line from there on out, with plenty of gun fights, knife-wielding maniacs, goofball martial arts combat, and a solid dose of galaxy-saving. Although it tends to be formulaic at times, Whedon makes sure it is also chock-full of his trademark brand of humor and quirky character moments. For junkies and casual moviegoers alike, it proves to be a ridiculous, yet fun, thrill ride.

-Matthew Wright

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