Movie Review: Shaun the Sheep Movie

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When a sheep decides he wants a day off, he accidentally ends up losing his farmer in the big city, and must work with the rest of his flock to try to get him back.

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Mark Burton & Richard Starzak, 2015

When the day-to-day business of farm life starts getting him down, Shaun the sheep (Justin Fletcher) decides he needs a holiday. He leads the rest of the flock to help him trick the farmer into sleeping in his locked caravan. Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events leads the farmer’s caravan into the Big City. Once he discovers that maybe running a farm is out of a sheep’s purview, Shaun heads to the Big City to retrieve their farmer. He has adventures with new friends and some new enemies as he tries to get the farmer to come home.

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I’m not really up on the Shaun the Sheep phenomenon, so for anyone who’s with me: Shaun the Sheep is a stop-motion TV show, spun off from Wallace and Gromit. It’s made by stop-motion giants Aardman Animations. Shaun’s usual fare is seven-minute shorts, though I imagine the plots are pretty similar to this film. And, rather crucially, nobody talks. There’s music and sound effects, but it’s also kind of like a silent film. This presents the filmmakers with some interesting quandaries. All the meaning in the film needs to be communicated dialogue-free. A lot of the time this works just fine. Shaun’s adventures fall mostly into a broad physical comedy range. However, communicating ideas like “amnesia” through writing in a kids’ movie is a pretty questionable decision. It also serves the purpose of making it seem like the animals are more human than the humans in the story, which is probably intentional. Shaun is a lot smarter than the human farmer, at the very least, and appears to be smarter than most of the humans he encounters. That’s a theme common to Wallace and Gromit as well, although it’s somewhat more unsettling in this story somehow.

The plot is pretty straightforward, but the action moves along nicely. It’s a hit with kids, the humour perfectly pitched at their level. The subplot with the farmer becoming a hairdressing celebrity is strange, but their little moments of just missing each other are cute. This leads to a sad moment that tugs at the heartstrings, which is pretty effective. It would be nice to spend more time developing the other sheep in Shaun’s flock as having their own personalities, because it’s hinted at, but not fully developed. The movie actually flows better when he’s paired with his new friend, a girl dog with terrible teeth and a heart of gold. The best scenes put the two of them and the farm dog in a Lady and the Tramp-esque pound full of eccentric animals. The movie cycles through gags quickly, so that the ones that don’t land don’t have time to hang around, and the ones that do don’t overstay their welcome. It’s a cute movie, and it works well for its target audience, but it doesn’t work as well for adults.

Shaun the Sheep Movie on IMDb

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