RogerBW's Blog

Shaun the Sheep: The Movie 15 February 2020

2015 animation, dir. Mark Burton, Richard Starzak; IMDb / allmovie.

When the sheep get bored with the hard work of life on the farm, they lock the farmer in a caravan for a day off. Chaos ensues.

So how do you turn a seven-minute short into a 75-minute film? Particularly a short aimed at children? Well, mostly you do the same thing, for longer; there is an overall plot (the farmer is lost in the Big City, and the sheep want to get him and themselves home again), but mostly this is a parade of sight gags and slapstick sequences, with no spoken dialogue apart from animal noises and some Peanuts-like muffled human speech.

But this isn't the glory days of Aardman, of the early Wallace & Gromit or Chicken Run: yes, there's still the occasional fingerprint in the clay, but Park is only executive-producing here, not involved in the actual making of the thing just as he isn't in the series, and the drive to make something amazing just doesn't come through here the way it did in those first few Aardman pieces.

Without dialogue, there's a ceiling on the sort of sophistication that can be worked in, and the producers try to make up for it by throwing in even more sight gags: for example, Big City is "twinned with GroƟstadt, La Grande Ville and La Gran Cuidad", and there's plenty of extraneous detail in every shot. Some of it works, some of it doesn't, and like Airplane! if you didn't enjoy that joke there'll be another one along in a moment.

At the same time there isn't the desperate pace that many films for children seem to try for: yes, there are action sequences, but there's also time for understated silliness.

That said, go in with low expectations. It's better than a lot of film out there, but it's OK rather than great; it's of a piece with the series, rather than an Aardman classic.

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