It’s not really Christmas until they show Wallace and Gromit on the telly. It’s no stretch to say that they’ve become a household name in British culture. Out of all the specials, one of the unanimous favourites is Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave. What makes these little Claymation characters so great in this special? Take a look below as I discuss Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave.
WALLACE AND GROMIT
Wallace and Gromit are on top form once again. With Wallace’s lovable charm and Gromit’s begrudging assistance, the duo once again brings a smile to everyone’s faces with their beloved antics. This time we learn that Wallace is a hopeless romantic as he chases after the affection of the local wool shop owner. He’s exactly how you expect him to be. A lovable idiot with a knack for inventing.
And you also have Gromit. Wallace’s long suffering canine companion. He’s the straight man (or dog) to Wallace’s wacky antics. He’s never spoken a single word but with every eyeroll, raised eyebrow or determined face we know exactly what he’s thinking. He gets many shining moments in this special, especially emotional one. The scene where he gets sentenced to prison is tear-jerking still to this day.
Finally, you can’t talk about A Close Shave without mentioning the main star. Introducing the much-beloved children’s icon Shaun the Sheep. Shaun is simply adorable in this. From his personality to his design, he’s the most adorable little lamb in British children’s television. He doesn’t speak but he doesn’t have to be a chaotic, funny character. He does what he wants when he wants and that’s what makes him perfect. Needless to say, the little sheep excelled to stardom.
Wallace has a new love interest every special. This time it’s the lovely Wendolene. She and Wallace have a genuine connection with each other and though they have little screen time they’re both perfect for each other. She’s also got a decent amount of character development and doesn’t feel flat as a character.
She’s responsible for the funniest moment in this entire thing. Towards the end, we see why their relationship doesn’t work out. The deal breaker in the relationship for Wallace is not the fact her dog was pure evil and tried to kill him and several sheep. No. It’s the fact she can’t eat cheese. The set-up and delivery were comedy gold. This was also what helped start the trend of Wallace’s ‘unlucky in romance’ plot lines.
Finally, the villain in this special is Preston the Dog. He not only masterminds the sheep rustling plan but also threatens to throw all the heroes, sheep included, into a mincer machine. Here’s where my one and only criticism comes in. I don’t think he’s as memorable as Feathers McGraw or Piella Bakewell. With that said he still makes an intimidating villain and a terrifying threat to our duo.
Wallace is an inventor, and his cracking contraptions bring so much creativity to A Close Shave. That’s not to say the previous ones weren’t creative but this one feels much grander in its scale. Porridge guns, sidecars that turn into mini planes to a Knit-o-Matic device. All of which are brilliant, but they manage to incorporate all of them into their tight-knit action scenes. Even in non-action scenes it’s still creative. Wallace’s breakfast routine is still a joy to watch 26 years later.
It has great plant and payoff as well. Every invention comes back one way or another for the climax. You wouldn’t think that a porridge gun would make a great weapon on a dog-sized WW2 fighter plane but Aardman proves anything is possible in the universe of W&G.
The animation used in this special is the usual Aardman standard of animation. Its usual standard is always cracking stuff. They’ve always been ambitious with their projects but this time they do a lot more with what they have. Everything they do feels so smooth and dynamic. Even when Gromit is doing something simple like washing the windows it looks so bouncy and fluid.
Speaking of action let’s talk about the action scenes. There’s been a train chase, a car chase and in this, it’s the van chase. Each moment has equal tension and comedy. They manage to fit so much dynamic movement into a small 3-minute sequence. There’s equal comedy and equal tension as the upper hand swaps from the characters second to second. From the second half onwards, they have two prominent action scene that may be short but pack a hell of a punch.
The simpler animation in this like the set design have that strange British-ness to it that no one else other than this company could replicate. It’s cosy, soft and familiar.
To conclude Wallace and Gromit: A Close Shave is a 30-minute short with enough charm, action and adventure to still make it a classic to this day.
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