UK-based Aardman is one of the most reliable animation studios operating today. Practically every feature and short they’ve produced has been a winner, led, of course, by their iconic creations – “Wallace & Gromit”. Now, with its first film since 2012’s non-stop laugh fest “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”, Aardman brings British TV animation staple “Shaun the Sheep” to American audiences in feature-length form.
One of the main things that sets the “Shaun” series apart is that, unlike with most animated films and programs, the non-human characters don’t speak English – instead communicating through animal noises. And the human characters rarely speak as well. And when they do, it’s also mostly through grunts or a couple of mumbled words. This style has been used successfully on the wildly popular “Shaun” BBC TV series, as well as on the excellent spinoff,”Timmy Time” (which aired for a few seasons in the US on the Disney Channel), and stars the littlest member of Shaun’s flock and his orange stuffed companion. And, with the “Shaun the Sheep Movie”, Aardman proves once again that you don’t need traditional dialogue to tell a funny, heartwarming and highly entertaining story.
Shaun and the other sheep are tired of the same, boring, daily routine of farm life: get-up at dawn, eat, get into a pen, and get sheared. They want a day off. So, after getting inspiration from an unexpected source, Shaun decides to put a plan into action. But things take an unfortunate turn, and the Farmer ends up in “The Big City”. And they quickly realize that without him they are also lost. So Shaun and the others, including watchdog and arch-enemy Blitzer, set out to the city find the Farmer and bring him home.
The entire breezy 85 minutes of “Shaun the Sheep Movie” is packed with both clever gags and subtle comedy bits. Aardman’s trademark attention to details is fully on display and never more spot-on. Often there are two and three jokes taking place at the same time, so you can’t take your attention away from the screen for a second (though, at one point, the sheep do put the farmer asleep by continually hopping over a fence). There are funny references throughout and you never know what’s coming next. The script mixes both old-fashioned and modern material, and while the plot is simple, the result is surprisingly effective. There aren’t a lot of laugh-out-loud moments in “Shaun”, but you will find yourself chuckling more times throughout this movie than during any film you’ve seen in a long time. And there’s also a hefty amount of emotion built into this story, dealing with topics such as abandonment (a few visuals are brilliant), pet shelters and, amazingly, what’s important in life. Trust me, the next morning you feel tired of your daily routine you’ll think of Shaun and his adventure and will jump out of bed.
It goes without saying, but I still have to say it: the Aardman stop-motion animation remains the best in the business. The studio never disappoints when it comes to the spectacular look and execution of both the over-the-top physical scenes and the small details, such as facial expressions. And the song “Feels Like Summer” (which is the heart and soul of the film) is simply terrific.
“Shaun the Sheep Movie” is witty, fast-paced fun for both kids and adults. If you’ve grown-up with Aardman and know these characters you’ll be delighted by this tale, and if you’re a newcomer you’ll welcome Shaun and his flock to your animation family with open arms. This is both the best animated film and most delightful movie of 2015 so far.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Shaun the Sheep Movie” gets an A-.
Running Time: 85 min.