Shaun The Sheep Movie (2015)

Shaun The SheepIn need of a holiday, Shaun (Justin Fletcher) conspires to lull the farmer in charge (John Sparkes) into an early sleep so that he and his fellow farm animals can enjoy some well-earned time off. His plan goes disastrously wrong, however, when the caravan Shaun is keeping him in comes loose of its holdings and rolls downhill into the big city. With food running out, Shaun mounts a daring rescue mission, quickly drawing the attention of Animal Control (Omid Djalili) when he and the other sheep arrive at the local bus station. The farmer, meanwhile, having crashed his caravan, wakes in hospital with no memory of who he is or how he got there, instead putting his innate shearing skills to use as a celebrity hairdresser.

Of the four Wallace and Gromit shorts wheeled out every bank holiday weekend, including the one from a few years back whose name escapes me, A Close Shave is undoubtedly the weakest film. It is therefore slightly surprising that for their first spin-off movie Aardman Animations have chosen to focus not on Feathers McGraw, the penguin thief behind The Wrong Trousers, or The Cooker, the picnic-foiling moon-bot from A Grand Day Out, but Shaun the Sheep…who ate some soft furnishings and wore a jumper made from his own wool. The character already has a stop-motion television series to his name, and a Christmas special due out later this year, so surely the showrunners must have had a good reason for furthering his adventures to feature length on the big screen? But what exactly do they have in store for Shaun The Sheep: Bigger, Longer and Unshaven?

Well, they’ve certainly thought up some new puns. Aardman’s animations are renowned for being quintessentially British, painstakingly produced and packed to the Plasticine rafters with background detail — and Shaun The Sheep Movie is no different in this respect. It’s sweet and charming and will make you smile fondly with its knack for innuendo and wordplay, but unlike Chicken Run, Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists! it’s never anything more than mildly amusing. Strangely for a studio who have in the past thrived on silent characters, the problem seems to be that nobody in the film speaks — not even the human characters — seriously limiting the storytelling possibilities and opportunities for characterisation. But while Gromit is one of the most expressive and beloved animated characters in British cinema despite his muteness, Shaun is nowhere near as easy to read or endear to because of it.

It seems almost blasphemous to accuse an Aardman film of being characterless — after all, Creature Comforts thrived on breathing life into an assortment of everyday animals in mundane situations — but Shaun The Sheep Movie has almost no personality whatsoever, from its awkward and uninspired title to its indistinguishable cast of interchangeable sheep. Indeed, one running gag sees supporting characters put to sleep by their repetitive antics. Not even the film’s resident dog, Bitzer, makes an impression; young fans might recognise him from the television series, but franchise newcomers are unlikely to remember him or anyone else with the fondness of past Aardman creations. Of course, it might just be that directors Richard Goleszowski and Mark Burton are making the film for existing fans only, and Shaun The Sheep Movie might well be entertaining enough to hold such an audience captive, but with the animation genre having taken such great strides towards being truly universal in scope (suitable for children and adults aged four years or over) it is notably, disappointingly meek.

While by no means baaaaaad, Shaun The Sheep Movie is unlikely to be remembered as a classic. With posters for animated movies appealing to audiences with words and phrases like “eye-popping” and “hilarious” it’s a shame to see Aardman settling for “simple” and “genial”. Parents may well feel fleeced.

2.5-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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