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Stop Action on the Move

Wallace and Gromit
Man's Best Friend: Wallace and Gromit

A new anthology exposes Aardman Animations

By Richard von Busack

THIS PORTFOLIO of the best of the clay-animation geniuses at Aardman Animations contains phenomenal work, from their peak efforts to their younger, more ephemeral moments. An audience not familiar with the amazing A Close Shave (1995) is in for a real treat. Director Nick Park takes a stop-motion animation tale of a shy bachelor inventor (Wallace) and his mute but eloquent dog, Gromit, and turns it into a wild James Bondian tale of sheepnapping led by a robot dog mastermind. It's not enough that Park filled this short full of ingenious action that shames a skull-crusher like Space Jam; nor is it merely a demonstration of adroit storytelling (as when Park shows the trial and imprisonment of the innocent Gromit in a few quick images); he also displays as poignant a vision of English desperation as anything Harold Pinter ever devised.

Of the other dozen or so Aardman cartoons here, most have also been shown in recent animation festivals, most notably "Wat's Pig," a fine turn on the theme of twins separated at birth. A scant few (such as the "Rex the Runt" series and a Beckettian piece called "Dent") look like the work of a talented art student, but "My Baby Just Cares for Me" deserves special mention. The storytelling is derivative of Tex Avery, but the cartoon cat who sings the ballad is as grave and beautiful as the singer herself, Nina Simone.

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From the November 27-December 4, 1996 issue of Metro

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