I’ve been a fan of Aardman from my earliest years. I remember watching the opening sequence of Wallace and Gromit’s ‘A Close Shave’ again and again as I fell in love with their lively animation style and hilarious characters. Though inconsistent in quality, their films have never lost their aesthetic charm and wide-eyed innocence. Their latest effort, The Shaun the Sheep Movie, proves to be another worthy addition to the Aardman collection, but falls short of their best on account of its stop-and-start action and rather clunky feel.
Adapted from the series of the same name, Shaun the Sheep follows the titular Shaun and his universally lovable team of fluffy fellows, who fumble their way through The Big City in search of their owner after their scheme to sneak a day-off goes awry. As in the Cbeebies series, the film is entirely wordless and punctuated by enthusiastic gibberings, impassioned baa-ing and a whole lot of hoof-flailing. Even without words, so much is said about urban and rural Britain through colourful caricature. The Farmer, who suffers from memory loss after a nasty caravan-related bump on the head, becomes a pop culture icon by mistake: a clever dig at viral sensationalism. The animation is genuinely fun to watch, (the flock waddling around pretending to be humans had me in stiches), and every sight gag feels like a discovery—each one a wink to the audience.
Even with all those praises, on the whole something felt missing. It’s full of individually hilarious scenes, but the journey seemed very inconsistent despite some very inventive running jokes. Some of the film’s strongest moments are completely silent, which made the hard-rock soundtrack a bit heavy handed and off-putting. Each individual ‘bit’ was delightful, but the transitions between scenes often failed to carry along that energy into the next moment. This may be symptomatic of the film’s origins, as the TV series is usually no longer than ten minutes per episode. Trying to make Shaun the Sheep bigger and grander, Aardman might have better served the silly sheep with a lighter touch.
The point could be made that bleating on about a children’s film for being heavy handed might come across as, well, pretentious. Before seeing Paddington, which did not compromise one bit on quality despite being a kid’s film, I might have agreed. Shaun the Sheep is a colourful and sweet adventure from the countryside all the way to the city, but I had hoped for more fun and fewer farts.