Shaun The Sheep Movie

****

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

"You're a very big part of the emotions of the character"
"The character design, already well established by the TV show, is crisp, the stop-motion animation as ever is lovely, and the depth of detail in the sets is great."

As the theme song for the television show also tells us, he's Shaun the Sheep (he's Shaun the Sheep). A CBeebies favourite, this is another big screen Aardman animation, and even though the story is slight, this tale of a flock in search of their missing farmer is far from woolly.

While audiences might be helped by familiarity with Shaun and his kin, this is sufficiently charming that even those not on first name terms with Shaun and Bitzer and Timmy will be won over by their adventures.

Copy picture

After a chaotic series of comic calamities, Shaun heads off to find his missing farmer. There's plenty of set-up beforehand, an escalating series of disasters prompted by the not unreasonable desire for a day off. His quarry (not the convenient one that makes an appearance later) has ended up in The Big City. One of a seemingly endless series of background references that reward watching this on a big screen is the fact that 'The Big City' is twinned with Grande Ville, Cuidade Grande, and Gro├čestadt.

The character design, already well established by the TV show, is crisp, the stop-motion animation, as ever, is lovely, and the depth of detail in the sets is great. With minimal dialogue (but plenty of mumbling) this rewards audiences at a variety of levels - there's muttering, sighing, and in the words of the BBFC some 'threat' and 'rude humour'. The score frequently references the original theme, and it's a jaunty, whistly number composed by Mark Thomas (who in a varied CV also scored Dog Soldiers) and sung by Vic Reeves. Vic Reeves!

Shaun himself is a little bit of a rebel, but parents (and adult children) of a certain age will find all sorts of nods to certain aesthetics - a social media campaign, graffiti, even posters for a gig with John Cooper-Clarke and The Fall all speak to a very particular audience, as does a beautiful visual gag about the wages of creativity, but elsewhere there's some comedy falling over, a good bit of hilarity from gaseous emissions, and a, by now standard, bit with an unravelling jumper.

Aardman's name remains an indicator of quality. They have a specific worldview, a charm, a depth of reference and wit paired with an eye for detail and story. Even when their films don't quite work (viz The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists) they're still amusing, entertaining and a treat to look at. While it's almost inevitable that it'll become a back-seat DVD staple, on the big screen details that might be missed jump out - in particular the "Ray The Angry Skeleton" action figure on the wall of a charity shop.

Writer/directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzack are not among the dozens of writers, directors, and producers who have contributed to the 60-odd episodes of the TV show, but show a real sense of the characters. They add a rooster, who seems a call-back to Chicken Run, and Omid Djalili lends noises and eyebrows to a menacing animal control officer while Nick Park is credited as himself. This is a bigger stretch than The Simpsons Movie, as episodes of Shaun's tend to the seven-minute mark - yet it works, and ably, over almost an hour and a half of antics. As is now traditional, the end credits conceal a couple of surprises, one of which works best in cinemas.

There's plenty to reward fans and those familiar with the series - a real highlight is Timmy's role in a disguise - but even those new to Shaun will find it a treat, perhaps even a 'shear' delight.

Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2015
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When Shaun the Sheep takes a day off to have fun, things quickly go awry, forcing him to lead his friends on an urgent rescue mission to the city.
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Director: Mark Burton, Richard Starzack

Writer: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak

Starring: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Richard Webber, Kate Harbour, Tim Hands, Andy Nyman, Simon Greenall, Emma Tate, Jack Paulson, Sean Connolly, Henry Burton, Dhimant Vyas, Sophie Laughton, Nia Medi James

Year: 2015

Runtime: 85 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK, France


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