Premièred by BBC Two A Close Shave Written by Bob Baker and Nick Park
To say it’s Wallace and Gromit, A Close Shave is seriously dark material. Gromit is framed for serial murdering, incarcerated for life, escapes and becomes a fugitive and must clear his name by exposing the true culprit: Preston the Cyber-dog, who’s no-doubt responsible for killing his creator – the father of Wendolene Ramsbottom, Wallace’s new crush. But the reason it works is this: Park understands what’s appropriate and what isn’t. He knows how much peril is too much, and can fill the gap with more fantastical elements. Preston’s fate is okay, because he’s only a robot. But even then, they can’t destroy him, because that might look horrific. Instead, he’s reprogrammed to be a humble servant.
And yet, A Close Shave has a horrific subtext. Ramsbottom keeps referencing how her father died tragically, and that he created Preston. And whenever we see Preston, it’s accompanied by some otherwise disturbing music, or backed with a gritty setting, like a factory. Not to mention that he processes his victims into dog meat… which is served to Gromit when he’s inside. Wallace and Gromit are the Roald Dahl of animation – it’s fun on the outside, but terribly disturbing underneath.
With A Close Shave, what you get is two things: a hilarious, action-filled extravaganza topped with imagination and creativity in terms of how far the stunts can be pushed, and an urban horror that becomes psychotic under the microscope. Both are executed just as well as the other. The humour highlights the darkness, and the darkness brings-out the humour. Park and Baker are masters of that. This is precision-engineered storytelling. They know how far they can go, and they also know when to stop. But that’s bound together by a fingerprint-laden adventure film about a mad inventor and his loyal dog.