You know what? Sometimes you don’t want a grip-the-seat thriller, or blockbuster superhero movie. Instead, what you want is something that is just fun, and makes no attempt to try and be anything else. If that’s what you’re looking for this weekend, then “Shaun the Sheep” is a pretty damm good choice.
Based on the television series, the latest cinematic adventure from Aardman Studios tells a very simple story. Shaun is getting tired of the mundane life on the farm, and takes the opportunity to have a break from things. But when their owner ends up in the city after a series of mistakes, he and the rest of the herd must follow, and try and bring him back home from a strange and unknown world compared to their simple farm.
Even with that simplicity, there are a few things that sets this apart. Firstly, there is no direct dialogue at all, just mumbling and gibberish. The majority of the emotions and reaction are illustration through facial expressions. Secondly as you might guess from seeing this is an Aardman creation, the animation is generated through stop-motion, a technique they have really made their own over many years of hard work.
And the combination works very well indeed. Combined with the simple set up, you don’t have to follow unnecessary side plots or twists. You can just sit back and enjoy the animation along with the satisfying pace. This is primarily a “collection of errors” comedy too, so once again, the visuals and expressions tell the jokes rather than any dialogue.
The animation itself is simply wonderful, and will be a real treat for any animation buff out there. There’s such a unique enjoyment from seeing these plasticine characters be moved a fraction of a fraction every second, and the backgrounds are full of little details that must have been an absolute nightmare to keep track of. It is rare to see a technical element like this yield a genuinely fun result. I really liked all the characters too. It is so easy to track their personality, to the point where even the way they each move conveys who they are. Shaun is the level-headed one amongst the insanity that is the farm, Bitzer the Dog is control-obsessed and constantly seeks admiration from his owner, while the antagonist Animal Control Officer Trumper is a washed out maniac who thinks he’s part of the Navy Seals or something like that.
My complaints are very small, but I’ll list them out anyway for comparison’s sake. This doesn’t have a unique tale or approach like previous Aardman movies had, so the simplicity does stick out a lot more than it might do if found in another flick. A small portion of the jokes are very dated and feel like filler where a transition couldn’t be decided upon. And the songs, which I will give props for at least being original and not annoying pop anthems, aren’t that great. Lastly, you don’t really get a sense of an arc in the personalities of the main characters, their progression is fairly static for the most part, except for the plot progression points.
But like I said, I’m kind of nit-picking here, and “Shaun the Sheep” never once looks like it is trying to be a character piece, or try and be Aardman’s greatest creation. It is just pure, wonderful, fun. It brings a little golden haze to your sodden Sunday afternoon and for the running time, gives you some good laughs, and a shed load of enjoyment. This probably won’t be contesting the Best Animated Film of 2015 segment, but this is one I will look back upon with a smile. Animation fans old and new alike will get a kick out of this one.
You might think of passing it over when your browsing the new releases, but really, if you want something that will make your day feel better than it is, this is what you want to get.
Thanks for reading!