How is it possible that two small black circles can convey so much emotion? They can, when they are set in the face of that clever, loyal, silent, lovable dog that is Gromit.He and his clueless master Wallace once again graced British screens on Christmas Day. In A Matter of Loaf and Death, the two now run a successful bakery, mainly due to the fact that all the other bakers in town are being murdered. Wallace then happens to make a new lady-friend, Piella (at this rate, he’ll soon be competing with James Bond), a former model for a bakery brand.
Murder mystery it may be, but even young children will hardly bat an eye at the untimely death of Baker Number 12. Rather it is the maltreatment of Piella’s little dog that will be one of their most traumatising viewing moments, somewhere up there with Mufasa, or Bambi’s mother. Poodle she may be, but even I wanted to take poor Fluffles home and give her a proper bed; not a cardboard box in her mistress’ grand bedroom in a palatial mansion.
There was infinitely more chemistry between the two dogs than the humans. I am not ashamed to admit that some scenes with only the former in them made my eyes rather moist. Peter Sallis, as ever, was delightful as Wallace, and Sally Lindsay gave Piella the ideally irritating, posh voice that such a character called for. Gromit was as quiet and expressive as we have come to expect.
It is a visual delight, considering how sophisticated claymation now looks compared to 1989’s A Grand Day Out. The near smooth movements of the characters are a testament to the time, patience and dedication that goes into making this half-hour programme. It is so packed full of visual and verbal gags and puns that it requires a frame-by-frame analysis to find them all. This latest adventure is as quaint and enjoyable as the rest, with a suitably over the top climax; however at times, it somehow did not have quite the same spark as its predecessors.
Despite this, Wallace and Gromit remain a welcome, home-grown antithesis to the CGI animation and cheesy live-action that has been flooding across the Atlantic of late. A Matter of Loaf and Death even took the top Christmas Day viewing figures. Finally, a genuinely deserving Christmas Number One.
According to the animators, it is very difficult to show Gromit’s emotions. All I can say to that is: Cracking job!