Shaun the Sheep Movie
|UK Release Date||6th February 2015|
|Director||Mark Burton, Richard Starzak|
|Reviewed||10th February 2015|
I’ve always been a fan or Aardman’s wonderful animation style but it wasn’t until the second Wallace and Gromit movie (The Wrong Trousers) that I truly realised how much genius those guys possess. One of the best chase scenes I’ve ever seen features a clay dog, his owner in robotic pants and a demonic penguin with a gun mounted on a fast moving train set. As Gromit is diverted onto the wrong track, he whips up a box of spare tracks as he zooms past and commences frantically laying the track down in front of his speeding vehicle, avoiding such household dangers as a window and the legs of a dining table. It’s exhilarating, immaculately staged, hilarious and brilliantly directed. At some point in this series of movies, Nick Park was the only person in history to have won an Oscar for every film he’d made. I think. He also came up with Shaun the Sheep.
I’d always viewed Shaun as a kind of kiddie friendly bolt-on to the W&G franchise, so much so that I can’t actually recall when he first appeared. But a small amount of Googling reveals that he has featured in quite a number of short episodes on the telly. Well, now he has his own movie - snappily titled Shaun the Sheep Movie (no room for extraneous definite articles here), which was about to pass me by. Then I watched the trailer.
Movie finds Shaun living out the drudgery of working life on Mossy Bottom Farm with his flock, The Farmer and Blitzer the loyal farm dog. The scene is set with a brief flashback to the happier days when the Farmer was far more rock n' roll and Shaun was just a wee lamb. Bored with the tedium of sleeping under a sack, getting woken by an incredibly enthusiastic cockerel and trooping over to the field, the flock, lead by Shaun, hatch an ingenious plan to leave The Farmer sleeping in a caravan so they can have the farm to themselves for some much needed R ’n R. This of course does not go smoothly and the next thing they know, The Farmer’s caravan has rolled out of the farm and (via quite a journey) ended up in the Big City. The Farmer has memory loss, Blitzer is banned from entering the hospital on account of some H&S red tape surrounding dogs and the sheep have been kicked out of the farmhouse by some belligerent pigs. Forced to face the fact that they may not have been so badly off, Shaun heads off to the Big City to retrieve The Farmer. As the sheep are sheep though (an hilarious, never tiresome recurring gag), he soon finds himself accompanied by the whole flock who have followed him on the next bus….
With no actors as such in this movie (this is essentially a silent movie, thought the silence is punctuated by the occasional grunt), we may as well crack on with the animation. Safe to say, it is of the quality we have come to expect. Every frame painstaking hand animated in clay and every character given its own personality somehow. I’m unsure if the farmer has appeared before but he compliments the animals perfectly. Closed eyes permanently shrouded by huge glasses, a t-shirt that is probably a public health hazard and sideburns that are the only reminder of his wilder days, he blunders around the movie with only the occasional raised fist (and approximation of 'Why I oughta..'). Likewise the brilliant animal control villain of the piece. A man armed with yellow and black crime scene tape, rubber gloves, a catching device (somebody tweet me and let me know what those things are called) and something of an inferiority complex, all the characters are filled to the brim with life. Which pretty much sums this movie up.
Every frame of animation is jam-packed with detail, bringing everything to life in a way that should shame a good number of live action directors. It’s an Aardman trademark of course but it is genuinely astonishing that they can keep this up for 85 minutes. And that they do, the pace and the flurry of ideas never lets up. Adult friendly gags are stuffed in with kiddie friendly (but not patronising) humour. I’m still chuckling at the list of city names that the Big City is twinned with, amongst other references that I only half got (there are THAT many).
Shaun the Sheep Movie is also laugh out loud funny in a huge number of places. The amount of gurning the sheep can achieve in faces that for the most part don’t even feature mouths is just amazing. Aardman even find time to fit in some good old fashion Disney style story telling, revolving around appreciating what you have and celebrating it, without falling into anything that resembles sentimentality. This is an adventure that doesn’t feel stretched to fit the movie length running time, in fact, you get the distinct impression that the makers probably struggled to fit all the material in.
With half term coming up, this is a movie that will do great business but it’s not just a movie for kids or one that you have to escort kids to. Bursting at the seams with detail, personality, wonderful energy and more gags than you can point a burnt cabbage at this is a movie I’ve somehow thoroughly recommended without one sheep gag. This makes me proud.