The reviews are in, and they're not encouraging. Oh, the critics absolutely looooove the new full-length Nick Park claymation classic Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. And they practically worship the motions and expressions of Gromit, the mouthless pooch of the British middle class. No doubt, the movie will make big bucks. But that's what's got me down.
You see, Wallace and Gromit were my family's little secret.
Alone on our block, we have the full series of W&G shorts on DVD, the W&G clock radio, the W&G comb and brush set, the W&G cookie tin, the W&G video game, the W&G fridge magnet, even the rare W&G Christmas short from the BBC a few year's back. Alone among my children's peer group of cousins and friends, we worshipped the genius of Nick Park and re-ran the "Classic Three" countless times over the last decade; indeed, they made the big move from VHS to DVD with us. They accompany us on long plane flights and longer car rides, cued up on the the laptop and the portable DVD player.
We speak in W&G tongue:
Not even Wensleydale?
Ex-Nasa, fantastic for walkers
Hold tight, lad, and think of a Lancashire hot pot!
Cracking toast, Gromit!
And so on. We didn't need a full-length feature film (with Ralph Fiennes and Helen Bonham Carter for God's sake!) but we secretly hoped it would be made, fail miserably because of poor promotion, and be added quietly to our DVD collection to be enjoyed over and over again in joyful, superior near-solitude. Alas, this appears not to be fated; the critics are raving. Times scrawler A.O. Scott was awash in clay in ecstasy, declaring an instant classic:
The animation is a marvel - all the more so because the most demanding sequences seem almost casually tossed off. The world of Wallace and Gromit is one of the few genuinely eccentric places left in the movies, a place where lumpy, doughy characters achieve a peculiar dignity in spite of their grotesque features and the ridiculousness of their circumstances.
And then there's his worship of Gromit, the smart-ass dog, all irony and dog biscuits, whose canine attitude both skewers British middle class values - and raises them up in all their productive glory. Oh, wait - that's me. Here's Scott again:
And this unassuming pooch's feature film debut, after appearances in three sublime half-hour shorts, is thus a solemn occasion (even if the movie itself is utterly silly). His face now enters the pantheon of stars whose charisma transcends speech. Keaton, Chaplin, Garbo - let them now make room for Gromit ... For me, most of all, it was Gromit's forehead, which gave me renewed appreciation for the magic of movies. If only I had a dog like that.
If only. Well, the die is cast - now we all have Gromit. So I'll join the lines and the crowd at the multiplex this weekend. And marvel.