Inventor and trusty dog have first real moment in spotlight

Wallace and Gromit are no strangers to fame. In 1989, they were nominated for an Academy Award for their first short, “A Grand Day Out.” Over the next six years, the duo earned two more Academy Awards for their adventures. And now, after an agonizing 10 years, the cheese-loving inventor and his silent canine companion team up for their first feature-length film.

“Anti-pesto” is their name, and the removal of veggie-crunching rabbits is their game. Our beloved heroes find themselves protecting the prize vegetables of their neighborhood. It seems the town has a terrible rabbit problem just before the annual Giant Vegetable Competition.

Being kind and caring exterminators poses a problem for Wallace and Gromit: What should they to do with all the rabbits? They very well can’t kill the poor things. But Wallace is an inventor, and he has just the thing to cure these rabbits of their vegetable ravaging. “The Mind-manipulation-o-matic” is a simple device that alters brain waves and cravings.

With all the town’s rabbits securely locked up and a positive test run of “The Mind-manipulation-o-matic,” Wallace and Gromit sit back and enjoy the praise of the neighborhood. That is, until the were-rabbit comes to town.

Despite all attempts to catch the beast, our heroes just can’t seem to trap it. The dirty deed is then passed on to Lord Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), a selfish, balding hunter who wishes only to kill it. But there’s something strange in the neighborhood, and the ones who should be called are Wallace and Gromit.

This film is a nonstop, laugh riot. The laughs vary from the childish burping jokes to slight and silly sexual innuendo. Classic gags are spiced up, and brand new classics are born. “The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” is a perfect parody of those old horror movies.

The cast is priceless. As always, Peter Sallis, as the na?ve and goofy Wallace, is perfect. Helena Bonham Carter exquisitely plays the rich, rabbit-loving Lady Tottington, and Fiennes is devilish as the evil Quartermaine.

Yet the best character in the movie is the muted mutt, Gromit. It is easy to feel his frustration, his loyalty and his passion without a single word uttered. Gromit’s expressive eyes bring that clay figure to life.

So if you’re in the mood for something witty, fun and gut-bustingly funny, grab your kids, your little sister or some friends and see “Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” It will leave you with an understanding of the Power of Cheese.

Shortly before the feature film, Dreamworks adds a 10-minute short about those freedom-hungry penguins from “Madagascar.” Back at the zoo, the military-like band of penguins get ready to celebrate Christmas Eve. One penguin decides to escape in order to buy a present for a lonely polar bear. Of course, nothing goes as planned, and the whole gang engages in another misadventure.

Similar to “Madagascar,” most of the wit and jokes are lacking. There is nothing very special about the short. The only saving grace is one half-dumb, half-crazy penguin that constantly pulls out a stick of dynamite wanting to make things go “Boom!”

It also appears too early for the Christmas holiday season. It is an odd pairing with the horror-mocking “Curse of the Were-Rabbit.” Do yourself a favor: go to the bathroom while “A Christmas Caper” is showing.