“It was the wrong trousers, Gromit. And they’ve gone wrong!”
It was Easter Monday yesterday and, consequently, there were loads of family friendly movies on television throughout the day, including Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave (1995). After watching this, it really was coincidence that Movie Lottery’s draw selected its predecessor, The Wrong Trousers, but it was a perfect Easter movie.
The Wrong Trousers is the second Aardman Animations short featuring Wallace, the eccentric inventor, and Gromit, his dog (the brains of the operation), after A Grand Day Out in 1989. It’s difficult to think of any contemporary comedies that are as quintessentially English as the odd couple – they delight adults and children alike and are bona fide mini-masterpieces.
In this adventure, Wallace decides to rent a room out to a lodger to get some extra income. The tenant is a penguin who, unbeknownst to the hapless inventor, is also a criminal mastermind who disguises himself as a chicken by placing a rubber glove on his head. While Wallace is blissfully ignorant of pretty much everything, Gromit becomes suspicious and, worse, begins to feel unappreciated. The film’s title refers to a birthday present given to Gromit – a pair of mechanical trousers that can be programmed to take him for walkies. Naturally, it all goes horribly – well, wrong.
Aardman’s visual designs, beautifully hand crafted plasticine models animated through stop motion, are expertly realised – only the occasional fingerprint reveals the creators’ hard work (and this is a reassuring, home-made touch, rather than a flaw). It is a true testament to the studio that they can create such well-rounded characters despite two of the leads – Gromit and the penguin – not speaking at any point. In fact, Gromit in particular is a wonderful achievement. By manipulating only his eyebrows, the animators manage to convey a vast range of emotions, cleverly exploiting the film’s score to ensure the dog is not only understood, but sympathised with.
The Wrong Trousers is filled with brilliantly realised set pieces and the constant, delightfully clever puns that Aardman has become associated with – from the beautifully designed village to the headlines on the daily paper, there is always something to catch your eye and make you laugh. It is funny, clever, quaint and – particularly during the diamond heist and the subsequent train chase (in Wallace’s house) – both tense and exhilarating. It’s hard to believe this is twenty years old – it still feels as fresh as ever and Wallace and Gromit remain, to this day, firm British favourites.