By 2008, the Wallace & Gromit series of films had come a long way from their humble beginnings as part of Nick Park’s graduation project in A Grand Day Out. The titular duo starred in two subsequent short films in the 1990s (with both of them winning Oscars), and in 2005, Wallace and Gromit starred in their first (and so far only) feature-length film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (which added more Oscar gold to Wallace and Gromit’s belts). It seemed only fitting that an additional short film in the series would be made. Enter A Matter of Loaf and Death, currently the most recent entry in the series, the bad news is that it’s also probably the duo’s weakest outing. On the plus side, given Wallace and Gromit’s track record, being their weakest adventure is still far from a terrible thing.
In A Matter of Loaf and Death, cheese-loving inventor Wallace and his faithful and silent dog Gromit have become bakers. Business is booming for their baking business, partly because Wallace’s machines make delivering baked goods a snap, and partly because a serial killer has murdered all the other bakers in town.
One day, Wallace ends up saving the life of a woman named Piella Bakewell, a former spokesmodel for a baking company. Wallace is instantly smitten with Piella, but Gromit has his suspicions, and Piella’s dog Fluffles tries to warn the duo of Piella’s true intentions.
If there’s any real problem with A Matter of Loaf and Death, it’s that the story seems to be a modified version of A Close Shave’s plot. Wallace falls in love with a woman, who also owns a dog, with one of them being the villain and the other a victim. At least A Matter of Loaf and Death switches up the who’s who of those roles, but the plot can feel like a bit of a rehash. Granted, the stories of Wallace and Gromit were never the major selling point, and were hardly groundbreaking, but simply reusing the same basic template of a previous episode seems beneath the series.
I’m also not quite sure how I feel about Wallace and Gromit entering darker territory with the story being built around a serial killer. It’s true that A Close Shave and Curse of the Were-Rabbit parodied horror films, but they actively avoided going into darker areas (the main victims in Were-Rabbit were farmers grieving over missing prized vegetables), so it just feels a bit out of character for the series to go into an all-out murder plot.
With all that said, however, A Matter of Loaf and Death is still a winner in entertainment. The visuals remain breathtakingly detailed, and continues the series’ trademark “how did they make that?” moments at just about every turn. The slapstick, gags, movie spoofs, and action scenes are all fun, and Wallace and Gromit themselves remain some of the most likable characters around.
The rehashed and strangely dark scenario may prevent A Matter of Loaf and Death from reaching the same heights as its predecessors, but it’s still a lovingly crafted, entertaining work from Nick Park. Let’s just hope it doesn’t remain Wallace and Gromit’s last outing. A new film starring the duo is always more than welcome.