`Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death' is a Christmas treat I shall always cherish. I was lucky enough to watch this when it was shown on Christmas Day, 2008. Beforehand I had been able to see repeats of the classic Wallace and Gromit episodes as a kid and have fond memories of them. But this was the first time I managed to see a `Wallace and Gromit' special for the first time and with such clarity. It's been worth watching over Christmas and has been an enjoyable experience.
It's been three years since 'The Curse Of The Were Rabbit'
(that brilliant Wallace and Gromit movie back in 2005) and the pair are now running a bakery. I love the opening sequence where Gromit the dog wakes his master Wallace up who's sleeping in the actual bakery workings and has his ears stuffed with cotton. Wallace gets woken up with a balloon full of cold water, and they do that traditional `Thunderbirds Are Go' sequence except with a twist as we see Wallace going through the bakery workings before reaching their new bakery van (which is possibly a remake of their Anti-Pesto van from `Were-Rabbit'). It's a lovely opening sequence with Wallace enjoying a cup of tea and a very well-done slice of toast provided by Gromit who drives the van.
However, Wallace and Gromit are under threat in terms of running a bakery as there's a mad mass murderer called the `Cereal Killer' on the loose who's killing bakers off one by one by the dozen (the latest was `Baker Bob' who we get to see murdered at the beginning). Gromit is obviously worried, but Wallace doesn't seem to be bothered as this gives him and Gromit the chance to have their business in prospering selling bread, cakes, etc, to family homes and stores.
They then come across Piella Bakewell (voiced by Sally Lindsay of `Coronation Street' fame), who was a former pin-up mascot girl for the apparently famous `Bake-O-Lite' bread company. `Light as a feather, she's the Bake-O-Lite girl' apparently. She's got her own dog - a poodle called Fluffles - much like Wallace who's got his own dog Gromit. Wallace takes a fancy to Piella since she happens to be the `girl of his dreams'. Pretty soon they start going out dating together, feeding ducks in the park; punting on some boat trip; dancing at a restaurant, etc. It's a relationship that's slightly over-the-top and too much for Gromit's liking who's suspicious of Piella, especially after Wallace rescued her and her dog from her bicycle rolling down a hill and nearly getting eaten by a crocodile in a zoo when the bicycle seemed to be working perfectly. But Wallace is blind by love to not even notice Gromit's suspicions.
I liked Gromit's relationship with Piella's dog Fluffles as it seems more like a real love relationship that's subtler and sweet. I like that scene where Gromit finds his room redecorated by Piella with flowers and cutie doggies and he gets so agitated before receiving a visit from Fluffles who returns his things for him which she kept safe and hidden. That moment when Gromit accidentally touches Fluffles' paw by mistake when taking the box of things from her was really sweet. And the moment where he blushes after she giggles a bit was really touching. Fluffles is very much like Gromit who can't speak and you can tell what she's saying by her facial expressions. It truly is a well-deserved match between the two.
As the story progresses, Gromit soon discovers that Piella is in actual fact the Cereal Killer and she wants to get her `baker's dozen'. Wallace is next on her list, and Gromit panics determined to stop Piella murdering his master. He goes to great lengths, setting up an electronic security system that detects metal when Piella walks through it wearing a security hat to go with it, locks up all kitchen cutlery and utensils in a `WMD' shed and stops Wallace from eating soup that is a `special' recipe by Piella. It goes to show how Gromit's loyal to his master and determined to protect and save him out of harm's way.
I really love the comedy moments in this episode. When Gromit tries to get the `cake of death' out of harm's way from Wallace, I love it when he jumps in the air and shouts to Gromit (in slow motion), `Where are you going with that CAKE!!!!!!!!' Then when the cake turns out to be the bomb with big words `BOMB' written on it, Wallace goes `Gromit! It's a bomb! The cake's a bomb!' Gromit has that aggrieved look on his face like he's saying `You think?!' I also like that moment when after Wallace feels rejected by Piella and he says to Gromit `And I'm not a fruit cake, am I lad?'. Gromit pats Wallace on the back like he's saying `You're alright'. The animation in this episode's really good and the way the characters look like Gromit with his face reactions without saying anything are truly wonderful to enjoy.
The climax to this episode where Gromit tries to get the bomb away from Wallace before it eventually ends up in Wallace's pants was really funny and exciting to watch. Seeing Wallace running in a panic and going `Gromit! There's a bomb in me pants!' was so amusing. When Gromit and Fluffles use a hose oozing raw pastry to stuck enough in Wallace's trousers to stop him getting killed as the bomb explodes, everything is safe. Wallace's buttocks get exposed which for me was a little inappropriate especially for children, and even gave the `nouns' a shock when walking outside with their cats. I also love it when Fluffles uses the Wallace and Gromit bakery truck with gloved mittens as cranes to fight against Piella in order to save Wallace. Wallace's reaction when he goes `Well done lad...err, lass?!' was truly inspirational. I love it with Fluffles wearing a pink safety helmet to fight in.
In the end, Piella get gobbled up by the crocodile in the zoo as she was meant to when dropping down in her balloon. It's a really sad moment for Wallace who says goodbye to Piella seeing her `angel' form going up to heaven. But it quickly passes him by as he goes off for a cup of tea. Fluffles however is affected by this sudden loss of her former mistress, and Gromit invites Fluffles to join him and Wallace to which she declines at first. Eventually when Wallace and Gromit decide to deliver some bread to cheer themselves up, Fluffles comes to join them in the end, and three of them go off into the sunset playing an LP record of `Puppy Love' in the car. It's lovely way to end the episode on such a high and funny note.
Written by directed by Nick Park along with co-writer Bob Baker (well-known for creating K9 in `Doctor Who'), this is Wallace and Gromit special worth watching. It may not be a touch on the classics like 'A Grand Day Out', 'The Wrong Trousers' and 'A Close Shave' (see here)
, or `The Curse of the Were-Rabbit', but it certainly fits in to the collection of adventures about this dynamic duo. It made my Christmas watching it, as I'm sure it'll do for you too.
The special features on this DVD include a `making of' documentary covering `A Matter of Loaf and Death' as well as many more including a PC game demo that can be played on your computer. There are also trailers on `Timmy Time' (hang on that's my name isn't it?) that was shown on CBeebies about a little cheeky and naughty sheep at school; and also the DVD releases of `Shaun the Sheep' shown on the CBBC channel.
I like to dedicate this review to Peter Sallis who provided the voice of Wallace in all the `Wallace and Gromit' films and recently passed away earlier this year. He will be truly missed by all those who remember him. `Job well done, lad! Hmm, hmm!'