I don’t think Nick Park or the BBC is going to be well pleased at this. It appears that the national public television channel in Australia, ABC1, decided to show the new Wallace and Gromit special a month earlier than the BBC. Here what one of our Australian ex-pat readers, Cedric, had to say about it:
Wallace and Gromit are a comedy equivalent of Usain Bolt’s 100 meters, you know the result before they start and it’s all over rather too quickly.
At a running time of 29 minutes A Matter Of Loaf and Death delivers enough of the dulcet tones of Peter Sallis and the insane animation of Nick Park to make anyone grin. The plot is a somewhat familiar one to Wallace and Gromit aficionados where Wallace’s blindness to the bleeding obvious leads him to make catastrophic choices, from which his faithful sidekick Gromit must ultimately save him. It’s much the same idea as a A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers, although they do throw some twists that deviate slightly from that formula.
In this story Wallace’s nemesis is ‘Piella’, the Bake Lite Girl, given some Northern England grit by the voice of Sally Lindsay. Yes, she who played Shelley Unwin in Coronation Street until 2006. She’s a psychopath with intentions to complete her ‘Baker’s Dozen’ (13), after bumping off twelve local bakers. And unfortunately for Wallace, he and Gromit have just started their own baking business, ‘Top Bun’.
This all plays on an old TV advert from the 70s with a beautiful girl in a balloon promoting bread, I think Nimble was the product. Except there is little about Piella that’s remotely nimble; she’s expanded like fresh dough since then.
Gromit’s suspicions are immediately aroused when he realises that Piella and Wallace’s chance meeting wasn’t accidental, and her poodle Fluffles seems to be living in total terror of her owner.
Piella takes over Wallace’s life before planning to end it with a bang. This initiates the last ten minutes of complete insanity where everyone runs around in the windmill they built on top of Wallace’s house in pursuit of each other and a bomb.
What’s so lovely about Nick Park’s work is how well it withstands a second or more viewings, as there are so many subtle gags and visual details that it’s difficult to catch the first time. Given how relatively few stories Wallace and Gromit have made since A Grand Day Out (1989), that’s not a bad thing.
On my first viewing, I noticed clever references to Peter Pan, Ghost, Strictly Come Dancing, and Silence Of The Lambs. And a big chunk of the end chase satirises the Queen fight on the Sulaco from Aliens. It won’t give away too much to say that Wallace doesn’t complete Piella’s collection, and her end is very snappy, indeed.
But, curiously, that leaves us with not just Wallace and Gromit, but also Fluffles the poodle, as an addition.
Overall it’s not quite as ambitious as the full-featured Curse of the Were-Rabbit but it’s more than enough to keep W&G fans happy this Christmas.