I’ll start off here by admitting that I am a huge fan of Aardman Animation. I consider Wallace and Gromit and the Case of the Were Rabbit to be a minor masterpiece and feel that Arthur Christmas, Pirates, and Chicken Run are great movies as well. Honestly, there is something about their mix of stop motion animation and true heart in the storytelling that makes them huge must-see filmmakers in my book.
Their latest movie is Shaun the Sheep, which for anyone who doesn’t know is based on their popular British animated television series. The TV show is about a sheep who continuously thwarts the attempts of his master’s dog at keeping them in line and sneaks around and causes havoc behind his master’s back. What makes it so charming is that Aardman uses the classic animated storytelling device of not using any dialogue whatsoever and allowing the actions and expressions from the characters to tell the story.
Just to make it clear, Aardman did not shake that device when making their feature length movie and there is no real dialogue in the movie outside of grunts and noises by the human characters at points. Plus, 90 percent of the movie takes place from just the perspective of Shaun and his friends, so there is no need for speaking. Like all Aardman features, this one features a lot of heart and some of the most amazing stop motion work in the business today.
The movie starts off with a prologue to clue in newcomers to the dynamic. It also does a great job of reminding older viewers that the relationship between Shaun, Blitzer the dog and The Farmer. On the TV series, The Farmer is just an oblivious farmer who has no idea that his sheep are so intelligent. However, directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak knew that the movie needed more than the show offered, which was just creative and intelligent slapstick.
To create the heart, the prologue showed how The Farmer was once a happy-go-lucky younger man who got Shaun as a young lamb and Blitzer as a young puppy. The three had a great photo to show them at the start and that connection was something missing from much of the TV show, the true love between Shaun and The Farmer and a relationship with Blitzer that was less antagonistic.
The movie is a fish out of water story as Shaun comes up with a scheme to get a day off from the same-old-same-old. He tricks Blitzer into chasing a bone and then lulls The Farmer to sleep by having the lambs jump a fence in circles around him. They then placed him in an old trailer and then went on their way to enjoy a day inside the house, doing whatever they felt like. Unfortunately, the trailer ended up knocked loose when Blitzer tried to wake The Farmer, and it rolled into the Big City.
Blitzer gave chase, but couldn’t catch up with The Farmer. Shaun jumped on a bus and went to the city to save his beloved master, only to have The Flock follow. Once there, they found an evil and vindictive animal control officer on the hunt for them while The Farmer was suffering from amnesia and fell into life at a beauty shop, using his sheering talents for a new claim to fame.
When the film focuses on Shaun and Blitzer trying to find their master, it works best. There is one scene where they finally find him only to have The Farmer not recognize Shaun that is completely heartbreaking. The moments with the animal control officer are less interesting, as he is a villain who might as well be twisting his mustache. The scene with Shaun in the dog kennels is great, but that was already shown almost in its entirety in the trailers.
Honestly, the Shaun the Sheep movie is nowhere near as good as Wallace and Gromit and really doesn’t come close to the other Aardman films either. However, there is a certain charm to the movie that made it a fun watch and something nice for the kids. The stop motion is still the best in the world and there are some scenes that makes it look like the team is still learning new tricks to make their films look amazing.
Don’t go in expecting a repeat on some of the films of Aardman’s past, but if you are a fan of Shaun the Sheep, or just want a charming and fun little stop motion animated film to watch, I will slightly recommend this one. Even Aardman’s lesser films are better than a lot of movies in theaters today.