Saturday 20 June 2015

Shaun the Sheep Movie

I’ll be honest, even as a huge Aardman fan from childhood, I was sceptical about Shaun the Sheep Movie. Despite my love of Wallace & Gromit, I never watched the Shaun the Sheep TV series. I didn’t feel like the character could hold his own show. I noticed that each episode only lasts around 6-7 minutes. As I suspected, I thought – the character can’t hold a viewer’s attention for any longer. This won’t last. 130 episodes later, I realise how wrong I was. Then when a feature length film was announced, I felt like it was time to give Shaun a look. Shaun the Sheep Movie, written and directed by Richard Starzak and Mark Burton, is out now on DVD & Blu-Ray. Does it measure up with Aardman’s other phenomenal works, or should Shaun have just stayed in A Close Shave where he belongs?

 Within the first five minutes, my lack of knowledge of the Shaun the Sheep universe was not an issue. Character roles were clearly defined but not shoved down your throat, and I didn’t feel like there was anything at all that I needed to know prior to seeing the film. It’s worth noting from the outset that none of the characters, not even the humans, have speak in a coherent language. The animals are all mute and the humans speak in a garbled gibberish. As such, I consider Shaun the Sheep Movie to effectively be a silent film. The story is told completely visually, and as it’s intended mostly for a younger audience, the narrative is a delight in its simplicity. Shaun and his animal friends decide it’s time for a day off, after a lifetime of being sheared and herded on a regular basis. They lock up the respected farmer in his caravan and put their feet up. But when the farmer’s caravan rolls out of the farm, down the road, into the city and crashes, the animal’s beloved master takes a hit on the head and loses his memory. So begins a delightfully far-fetched rescue mission, as the animals hit the city to save the farmer and restore his memory. Believe me, it works on screen better than it does when I try and explain it! 

Shaun the Sheep Movie is vintage Aardman. The animation took me straight back to my childhood. After the rather abysmal Flushed Away which was completely computer animated with a stop-motion aesthetic, it’s wonderful to see Aardman doing a feature length piece in their unique, unmistakable animation. As always, the attention to detail is stunning and visual gags are littered throughout – with some great nods to Breaking Bad, The Shawshank Redemption, The Silence of the Lambs and Inception, to name but a few! Due to the time and effort it takes to animate, Aardman films are never too long. Shaun the Sheep Movie is no exception with a runtime of approximately an hour and 20 minutes. The pacing is brilliant – you know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And there’s a lot of fun to be had here. There are a few quibbles; the plot does get a little too wacky in places, and the villain – A. Trumper, animal containment officer – was a little tedious at times. Much like Paddington, the film could’ve worked with a ‘fish out of water’ approach alone, without throwing in a generic villain. I suppose that’s for the kids. They identify better with goodies and baddies.

In any case, Shaun the Sheep Movie is still a delight throughout. It’s warm, sweet and funny. And who could ask for more than that? There’s something here for all ages and the craft alone is a beautiful thing. The passion that goes into an Aardman project is evident in every frame. I can’t fault this film in any way. Maybe I’ll have a look at the series soon, after all.

Shaun the Sheep Movie is right up there with vintage Wallace & Gromit, and earns a solid 4/5.


Sam Love

Shaun the Sheep Movie at CeX

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