Anticipated by animation fans with a fervor generally reserved for the devoutly evangelical, the adventures of cheese-craving Wallace and his resigned pooch, Gromit, have translated to the big screen with most of their sly, veddy British humor intact. The interspecies duo, as established in Oscar-winning shorts "The Wrong Trousers" and "A Close Shave," has a sweet, classic-comedy rapport (silent Gromit is clearly the smarter of the two) that transcends this feature's intermittently lax plotting and bits of voguish lowbrow crudeness. Here, they police a quaint North English town for wayward rabbits that scourge the locals' prize vegetables; eventually, though, in pleasing mock-horror style, a monster bunny rears its ugly ears.
The carrot at the end of this shtick is, without question, the painstakingly rendered stop-motion animation, which reveals creator Nick Park and his team of artisans to be molding clay at their absolute best. When the occasional thumbprint sneaks its way onto Gromit's snout, the effect is less a flaw than a charming signature of authorial passion. So too is the sparing use of CGI, including some syrupy-looking fog and a swirling "Bun-Vac 6000" that sucks up offending nibblers. Like John Fiedler's beloved voicing of Piglet, 84-year-old Peter Sallis's excitable Wallace suddenly feels pantheon-worthy. The dog, of course, needs no words to get there.