Twitter Plot Summary: Shaun and his fellow farmyard animals head off to the big city in order to save their friendly neighbourhood farmer.
Who needs dialogue in order to tell a good story? Not Aardman Animation, that’s for certain, and they have proven their point in Shaun The Sheep Movie, a feature length adaptation of their own, much shorter kids television series starring Shaun, he himself having made his debut in the Wallace and Gromit adventure A Close Shave and also spawned its own spinoff in Timmy Time.
Here the story is relatively simple. The farm has a very specific schedule that is followed every day, which is understandably quite boring for everyone involved. Seeing a bus advertisement one day, Shaun decides that a day off will do everyone some good, so hatches a plan to sideline the farmer for a day and let everyone kick back and relax for a bit. Due to unforeseen circumstances that stretch the boundaries of possibility (there’s a runaway caravan involved), the farmer is soon in the big city suffering from amnesia and thinking he’s a celebrity hairdresser. As you do. Shaun and pals then decide to go after him, restore his memory and return everything to normal.
Suffice to say, the film is a hoot from start to finish. Not only is it a story that works for the target audience but also for grownups who are either fans of Aardman’s work or have been forced along to the cinema by their kids. References to more adult fare abound – the cat that resembles Hannibal Lecter, or the pound officer getting his head stuck up the backside of a pantomime horse for example – but then simple humour is provided frequently through either classic slapstick action or regularly cutting back to an intense staring dog with bulging red eyes in the pound. Even moments where the sheep dress up as people to move around without drawing the attention of the animal control chap make sense within Shaun’s world and are nothing other than moments of pure, genuine amusement. It’s daft and silly but don’t hold that against it.
It is also yet another example of how much fun stop motion animation can be in an era of computer generated animated features. Each character is expressive and can say a lot by doing very little. But then, this is the same company that made the non-verbal Gromit such an endearing character through his facial expressions alone. Aardman have a tendency to fit a number of other amusing and thoroughly British references into their films, and Shaun The Sheep is no different. Perhaps this is the reason why the series is so popular on a global scale. If the Britishisms don’t make sense, there’s the slapstick humour to fall back to.
Along the journey not only are themes of friendship and diversity covered – they meet an ugly but very pleasant dog on arriving in the big city – but it highlights how restrictive constantly sticking to the same pattern day in and day out can be.If it inspires some level of creativity in the children who see it as well as entertaining them, then it will have done its job.