December 3, 1993 [Wallace and Gromit in The Wrong Trousers]

From the slight wordplay of the title to the inscrutable deadpan of its penguin villain, The Wrong Trousers felt absolutely right.  I mean, my love of cartoons--well, clay-mation, here--has never abated, but this British short about trousers vindicates the sight of a grown man grinning like a kid on Christmas morning while the best film noir in years, maybe decades, rattles along like the model train chase of its climax.

But as good as the movement is, what I love most are the slow takes, the stillness, the flawless shots that work simultaneously as parody and homage.  And of course the dialogue--well, monologue, with (again) silent takes as eloquent (or, in the case of the penguin, menacing) as any that Gish or Chaney or Keaton could've managed.  I write without undue meanness that that little bird troubled my children--and well he might: he works as a Presence no one wants to encounter--particularly as a bedroom interloper, calmly claiming one's space, silently wallpapering over one's past, one's self.

But of course it's a comedy, right?  Still, it noses out our uncertainty, and teases us with the fact that we've been to the movies enough not only to get the joke but also to accept the terror and thrills of molded-clay mayhem, split-second decisions paired with the slow and sliding creep of a sociopathic penguin whose dead eyes size you up and plan your erasure--while intrepid heroes counter with quick reflexes and boundless invention.  What more can the movies promise, despite the terrible calculations of a faux chicken?


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