Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun_Chase_Quad_UK release date
Aardman Animations
Directed by Mark Burton and Richard Starzack
In UK Cinemas February 6th, 2015

by Louise Mothersole

I shall start by saying that, overall, I very much enjoyed the Shaun the Sheep Movie. My attention and interest – and the attention and interest of the children around me – never flagged, which is an achievement in and of itself for an 85 minute film with no spoken words.  However, there are some aspects of the film which prevent it reaching the same heights as any of the Wallace & Gromit franchise (including The Curse of the Were-Rabbit) or Chicken Run.  The main problem is that the premise is too weak. It is so feeble that all of the plot feels enjoyable but pointless and, by the end, unsatisfying.

Shaun the sheep is bored of the daily grind of…being a sheep. We are shown a montage of early mornings and long, busy days. However, the only activity we actually witness the flock participating in is shaving-day – I can’t imagine how they fill their busy schedule the rest of the time. The balding farmer is likewise bored, and the task-master dog appears fed-up. Life seems mundane and, for some reason, exhausting. Shaun wants a holiday. So he cooks up a plan which goes awry and the gone-to-seed farmer ends up with memory loss (amnesia) in the Big City. For some reason, Shaun and the other sheep spend the rest of the film attempting to find the pot-bellied farmer and bring him back ‘home’ to their unbearably dissatisfying life on the farm. (A brief montage of the sheep and the farmer from The Past looking young and sprightly in a sunny field accompanied by a cheesy pop song is meant to convince us that farm-life is worth returning to. Unfortunately, it does not convince.

Luckily, there are gags aplenty to propel us through this empty exercise. There are clever references to well-known sayings and nursery rhymes. There is a funny and understated homage to The Silence of the Lambs for the over-18s in the audience. There are classic Aardman-style visual gags at almost every moment.  Numerous fart-jokes are inserted to replace the old Wallace & Gromit charm.

Shaun is just not nearly as cute as he was in A Close Shave. It is partly because, when communicating wordlessly with the other sheep, or exclaiming, he has the voice of a grown man. And he struts around on just his back two legs! Also, he fills a similar role to Ginger in Chicken Run, he is the brains behind the various woolly operations. What I loved about Shaun in his original incarnation was his sweet little ‘baa’ chirrups, and his adorable (apparent) guilelessness. He is too human, adult and artful in this film – something Gromit managed with intelligence, reserve and dignity, and without the need for a man’s voice mumbling and huffing throughout. There is a lamb who in Shaun the Sheep fills the role of ‘cute character’. He is about as successful as Scrappy Doo in Scooby Doo.

However, I think this film contains one of the best and most believable representations of a big city I have ever seen. The city is grimy, confusing, cluttered, damp, and subject to gentrification and pretentiousness – yet buzzing (like hair clippers) with energy. And, let me not understate how enjoyable and wonderfully weird the various japes are. There is a vast array of very humorously constructed side characters. The directing and cinematography is good. The world and characters created are, as with every Aardman creation, a work of art. The film, despite its completely arbitrary and flimsy premise, manages to be thoroughly entertaining throughout – right up until its vaguely disappointing end.

I believe what is missing from the Shaun the Sheep Movie when held alongside the Wallace & Gromit collection (aside from a point) is heart. The film’s message seems to be that home is where the heart is, and we are just not convinced that ‘home’ is so nice. It’s like imagining Oliver Twist spending his time in London attempting to find Mr. Bumble and get back to his rose-tinted country workhouse. Oh, and Oliver has the voice and demeanour of a middle-aged man. And – if we’re imagining the musical Oliver! here – the musical numbers are annoyingly ‘hip’ pop songs. And Nancy is actually the Dodger and one of the other pick-pockets in a wig. Then Oliver and Mr. Bumble are reunited over a bowl of gruel – hooray! The End. Nope. Not as good.

Note: Nick Park is notably missing from the writing credits of this film. Perhaps he could have thought up a firm and believable enough premise to inject a sense of urgency and peril into the film, making the conclusion feel more like a genuinely happy ending.

One Response to “Shaun the Sheep Movie”

  1. Wilfredo says:

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