Wednesday, 6 November 2019

A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon ★★★★☆

Now living in Bristol, I felt duty-bound to see Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon on release. For those of you who don’t know, the city is the home of Aardman Animations – a fact which is hard to ignore, thanks to Wallace & Gromit merchandise available in gift shops across Bristol. Hell, even Bristol Zoo is rammed with Aardman gifts. But there’s a reason that audiences continue to adore everything Aardman touches, and flock (pun intended) to see their creations and buy their merch. Their works are among the finest animated films in the cinema, and arguably some of the best titles in British film. Yeah, a bold claim.

2015 brought us the first big-screen adventure for Shaun the Sheep, based on the 2007 TV series which in turn was a spin-off from Wallace and Gromit’s A Close Shave. The film, effectively a silent comedy, communicated an entire narrative without uttering a single word of English. The film’s human character spoke in gibberish while our animal heroes baa’d, barked and growled. It was a hilarious masterpiece. Now, we have a sequel – and it’s bigger and better than the first.

When an alien possessing strange powers crash-lands near Mossy Bottom Farm, Shaun the Sheep quickly makes a new friend with whom to cause trouble and irritate sheepdog Bitzer. However, their antics soon comes to an abrupt end when they must run from a dangerous organisation who wants to capture the intergalactic visitor. Again, the film is without a single spoken word of English – and yet, it is totally engrossing and charming. Justin Fletcher, in particular, is as brilliant as ever as the voice of Shaun, communicating all emotions with differently pitched baa’s. He is a master.

As with any Aardman film, the animation here is absolutely first-rate. Every character feels totally alive, moving fluidly and maintaining that Aardman charm of every frame featuring the imperfections that reflect the passion that has gone into them. Fingerprints are often visible in the plasticine characters, but it is not even remotely an issue – it makes the film unmistakably Aardman. Set design and props are as stunningly designed as ever, with an attention to detail that is second-to-none. Jokes are hidden into almost every frame. Look closely whenever a character is reading a newspaper or travelling through town, as there is almost certainly something hilarious tucked away, begging for repeat viewings to unearth every gag. 

Being a science fiction film, Farmageddon is rammed with references to pioneering works from the genre. Expect to hear the iconic Close Encounters notes, and look out for one of the best 2001: A Space Odyssey homages – substituting a slice of toast for the monolith. This is a film made with an undeniable passion for the craft of movies and acts as a love letter to a beloved genre.

Farmageddon is an absolute delight of a film, packed to the brim with hilarious gags, stunning animation and an unbridled passion that only Aardman brings to their works. I loved absolutely every second of the film, as I have with everything the much-loved company have ever created (except Flushed Away, but I just pretend that doesn’t exist). You will have an absolutely (inter)stellar time with Farmageddon – it’s the best family film of the year by far.

Sam Love

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