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Movie Review

Once upon a time, cartoons catered to kids. Animated fare was inherently child-friendly. In recent years, however, The Simpsons, Beavis & Butt-head, South Park and other adult-oriented shows have poisoned the genre. But parents can take heart. One British director remembers the good old days—and his Oscar-winning stop-motion animation is now delighting families here in America.

Nick Park's brilliant claymation series, Wallace & Gromit, chronicles the adventures of an eccentric, cheese-loving inventor and his sharp-witted canine companion. It's clever. It's superbly produced. And while it rarely imparts deep moral messages, this squeaky-clean trilogy is suitable for all ages. Park's three half-hour episodes include:

"A Grand Day Out" - On a quest for cheese, Wallace and Gromit build a rocket ship and head to the moon.

"The Wrong Trousers" - The duo's relationship is tested when a mysterious penguin secretly plots to use Wallace's new invention in a daring diamond heist.

"A Close Shave" - In this suspenseful yarn, Gromit finds himself framed by sheep rustlers, and must rely on his love struck master to clear his name.

Parents can use these humorous tales to teach about teamwork, kindness, forgiveness, friendship and knowing right from wrong. But the messages are subtle. Park focuses instead on employing above-average style and creative panache to tell engaging stories.

"A Grand Day Out," "The Wrong Trousers" and "A Close Shave" all work on two levels. For young children, the videos succeed as light-hearted, wholesome entertainment. But to the teens and adults responsible for turning Wallace & Gromit into a blossoming franchise, the films are nothing short of art. Painstaking animation. Sensitive characterizations. Remarkable attention to detail. Best of all, they're good, clean fun.

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Bob Smithouser

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