Shaun the Sheep, the beloved British stop-motion animated children’s television series from Aardman Animations (Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Flushed Away), finally has its very own movie, the economically-titled Shaun the Sheep Movie. And it’s every bit as delightful as its small-screen counterpart.
Unlike most big-screen, zoologically-inclined fables, nothing and nobody speaks in Shaun the Sheep. Instead, the dialogue is provided through a series of bleats, barks (the latter courtesy Bitzer, a long-suffering canine), moans, and groans, plus a plethora of strategic sound effects.
Fed up with the ram-battering predictability of each identical day at Mossy Bottom Farm (depicted in a predictably wacky montage of repetitive roosters and advancing calendars), Shaun, the de facto leader of the farm’s good-natured flock, devises a plan to mix things up a bit. But the best laid schemes o’ ewes an’ hens “gang aft agley” and their farmer, trapped in a runaway caravan, winds up lost in The Big City, geographically and mnemonically-speaking. Shaun and his fellow sheep’s day off therefore becomes a search and rescue mission, leaving three typecast pigs to make a piggery of the place.
Rated PG for “rude humor” (perhaps rude, never crude), the film is as much fun for adults as it is for kids, with Aardman’s tried-and-true combination of in-jokey references, chiefly-British humor, and meticulous attention to detail ever charming—I love how the sheep’s mouths jut out the side of their heads when they emote. The TV episodes ran a mere seven minutes each, so you’d think writer-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak might have struggled to expand the concept (based on Nick Park’s original creation) to feature length. But Shaun the Sheep Movie feels just right—warm and fuzzy and comfortable, like a natural fleece blanket.
Some farm-loving Yanks may miss a few jokes, like the pun in the title, but they should still find the film to be shear [sic] entertainment.
(c) 2017 David N. Butterworth