Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for Rude Humor
Directed by: Richard Starzak & Mark Burton
Written by: Richard Starzak & Mark Burton
Voices of: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Kate Harbour, Richard Webber & Tim Hands
For my money, Aardman Animations stands alongside Disney and DreamWorks as a reliable studio for animated entertainment. Focusing primarily on stop-motion, Aardman made a name for themselves with WALLACE & GROMIT shorts and a string of critically acclaimed projects. Aardman is once again on the big screen with their most adorable feature yet: SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE. Based on the British TV show of the same name, SHAUN THE SHEEP is Aardman’s cutest movie yet and doesn’t have one bit of spoken dialogue. Both of these qualities contribute to its strengths as well as a couple of problems.
Shaun is a sheep (duh) living on Mossy Bottom Farm. His life and the lives of his flock are made up of a basic routine. He gets up, eats, and gets shaved. It all becomes very boring for Shaun, who just wants a day off. So, Shaun enacts a clever plan to get one full day of relaxation for himself and his fellow farm animals. The plan goes awry and his Farmer winds up with amnesia in The Big City. This all leads to Shaun, Bitzer (the loyal sheepdog), and the rest of the flock making their way to The Big City in order to bring the absent-minded Farmer back home. Their journey is further complicated by the villainous Trumper, an animal control officer, who is hot on their trail.
The best thing about SHAUN THE SHEEP is, without a doubt, the animation. Much like all of their other efforts, Aardman adds a loving touch to the tiniest of details. A big stop-motion world is laid out on the big screen and I got lost in it. It’s easy to forget that stop-motion is arguably the most difficult kind of animation and it was clear that a lot of dedication was poured into this project. The stunning visuals alone make SHAUN THE SHEEP worth watching, but the good-natured sense of humor in how the simple story is told make the film even more charming. Though the pacing drags a bit in the beginning while Shaun is on the farm, lots of visual jokes appear once the story enters the Big City. Keep your eyes peeled for lots of sight-gags that will make older viewers chuckle and children laugh out loud.
SHAUN THE SHEEP has the simplest plot of any Aardman production and feels like their most innocent movie as a result. Though this innocence doesn’t stop them from injecting the occasional fart joke or moment of potty humor into the mix. The film’s lack of dialogue might throw some viewers for a loop, but ultimately shows that great animation can tell a story without words (e.g. TRIPLETS FROM BELLEVILLE). However, I couldn’t help but feel that in the space of 85 minutes, SHAUN nearly overstays his welcome. Let’s call this the “Mr. Bean effect.” I love Mr. Bean and laugh constantly at his sketches. When you try to turn to a skit into a feature-length film, it’s a bit more difficult to keep the audience engaged the whole way through. The same goes for SHAUN THE SHEEP, which feels like an elongated episode of the series.
SHAUN THE SHEEP is sweet and simple to a fault. The animation is worth a viewing alone as its simply gorgeous to look at. However, the short running time feels like it’s a stretch at just over 80 minutes. Even with its pacing issues, SHAUN THE SHEEP is yet another quality animated entry from Aardman. If I had to rank it in their filmography, I’d say that it’s better than FLUSHED AWAY and CHICKEN RUN and worse than everything than the rest of their features thus far (CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, THE PIRATES!, and ARTHUR CHRISTMAS). Ultimately, SHAUN THE SHEEP is enjoyable family friendly entertainment that should delight children (if only to watch a sheep running around the big city) and satisfy adults (if only for the top-notch animation on display).