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New Release Review - SHAUN THE SHEEP

Big screen outing for Aardman's popular BBC character.

Review by Joshua Mitchell

Directed by: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

Starring: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili



"There's nothin' (mutton?) new about Shaun the Sheep, as it hits the expected beats (bleats?), but the film is fun and good-natured, making for affably pleasant and entertaining viewing. It's Aardman doing what Aardman does best, and it's lovely to watch."


It has been over three years since Aardman's last feature, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, but their newest film, Shaun the Sheep, is a broadly appealing charmer. There's nothin' (mutton?) new about Shaun the Sheep, as it hits the expected beats (bleats?), but the film is fun and good-natured, making for affably pleasant and entertaining viewing. It's Aardman doing what Aardman does best, and it's lovely to watch.
Shaun the Sheep is based off characters from the British television show of the same name (also produced by Aardman). In the film, Shaun and his sheep friends are bored of their daily routine with their farmer and dog pal Bitzer. Unfortunately, they inadvertently send the farmer off to the city where he hits his head and loses his memory, so Shaun and friends set off to the big city to bring their owner home, but must also avoid the local Animal Control officer, A. Trumper.
The film is largely wordless. The animals are mute (excluding sounds), and the humans speak only in gibberish. It's a cute concept, and the comedy and visuals work so well that one forgets almost immediately that not a single word has been spoken. In a way, Shaun the Sheep allows Aardman to do what Inside Out did for Pixar; create a film that relies on their strengths. In Pixar's case, Inside Out put heavy focus on tugging on heart strings by literally having emotions act as characters. In Shaun the Sheep, the gags and story are told through visuals, which have always been Aardman's chief calling card.
As such, the visuals are predictably scrumptious to look at. They're less showy than Aardman's previous work, but their simplicity is part of their charm. The gags seem a little more mellow too. The chuckles run consistently, but real belly laughs are a little scarce. This isn't a problem; the humor is easily engaging enough for the 75 minute feature (billed as 85 thanks to some animation after the credits). But those looking for the riotous fun of Aardman's better films may be a touch disappointed.
Nonetheless, this is effortless viewing. Only a few small blemishes are really worth noting. Some toilet humor does gum up the works a bit, it's baaaalanced well with smarter gags. The baaaaaad guy is a little thin, used more as a source of opposition, rather than a humorous element of the film. And more than a few plot similarities to Chicken Run won't be lost on animation veterans (including the general idea of "escape" and living life on the *ahem* lamb).
Still, Shaun the Sheep is effectively entertaining and surprisingly sweet at times. The "shear" charm of the visuals and Illan Eshkeri's score are great baaaaack up, but the gags are consistently funny enough to engage all the same. "Ewe" wouldn't be wrong to assume that the film lacks the sharper edge or laugh-out-loud moments of Aardman's previous efforts, but it's highly amusing and frequently clever. What I'm trying to say is that Shaun the Sheep "wools".




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