I’m not entirely sure when I first saw Wallace and Gromit in action, but I do know it was in The Wrong Trousers. Since then I’ve marvelled at the skill of stop motion animation, the storylines and the in-jokes, adopted ‘Cheese Gromit?’ into my vocabulary to mean ‘fancy a snack’ and accused the Textiliste of having a Wendolene haircut which did me no favours.
I looked forward to the latest Aardman film, therefore, with some mix of hope, relish and trepidation.
The premise, not to plot spoil here, is that early man invented football after a natural disaster only for his descendants to lose touch with the game until their idyll is turned upside down by a mercenary set of invaders. The invaders, a sort of mix between the nutty Romans and the French, are skilled at football and a match is set up to sort out the vexed question of land ownership.
It has all the ingredients of a perfect evening of smiles and simple pleasures.
And, yes, the cultural funnies – taking the mickey out of English football’s obsession with its one world cup win are all there, as are the commentators whose dialogue is an amalgam of every cliche there has ever been.
Time passes easily enough – Aardman films aren’t there to challenge the intellect – and my attention didn’t wander but… you knew that was coming, didn’t you – … it’s all a bit samey, a bit like a franchise that’s got a bit tired. The baddie a classic Aardman baddie, even looking the same; ditto the goodie, Doug and the love interest. Why aren’t the heroes female? Has there been a female Aardman hero? Can’t immediately think of one but I’m sure I’ll be corrected.
Trepidation won out, I fear. A film too far, for me, from this stable. I read one critic pan Aaardman for not being Pixar but, to me, that’s just so much baloney. They are each their own wonders. But both, whatever the skill and creativity of the models and the filming, are utterly dependant on the script engaging you and this one really doesn’t. Same for all films, of course and maybe we’ve been a bit spoilt, but I fear this one will go straight to DVD…
PS This was a new cinema for me – the Peckham-plex, an independent in the heart of rural Peckham (*coughs). Funny old place, Peckham. On the one hand the Rye, where we alighted has some lovely old cottages that are part of the ‘new’ Peckham, of chocolatiers and artisan kebabs; but about face and the mobile phone shops, promising to unlock any phone in seconds and meat shops that smell like a cross between an abattoir and a Lebanese podiatrist are ever present – reminding oddly of the Brixton I first knew in 1980 when I came to London – edgy, a bit seweragy and open all hours, ubiquitous neon and plastic-backed menus and spoons on chains so you can’t steal them. It’s waiting to up-and-come, to gentrify and meanwhile it wears its credo in the street art tags and herbal atmosphere. The ice cream, though, was excellent and not the price of a small riverboat.