Shaun the Sheep is Stop Motion Fun For Everyone
Allow me to get this out of the way, I LOVE WALLACE AND GROMIT! For me it’s like “The Muppets” or Pixar in that yes it’s meant for kids and was a huge part of my childhood but has also aged magnificently well. I can watch and laugh at the jokes and it’s not like, “Oh that was cute for a kid’s film,” no that was legitimately funny.
Any movie made by the creators of “Wallace and Gromit” is right up my alley. It’s also an adaptation of the “Shaun the Sheep” TV show. Shaun is a mischievous sheep on an English farm who enjoys getting into trouble, pulling pranks, and basically trying to inject some fun into his and the other sheep’s daily lives. Their latest prank goes too far and not only sends their farmer far away into the city but also gives him amnesia. Thus it’s up to Shaun and the sheep to get him back while avoiding an amazingly determined dog catcher.
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 4.5
Now from that description of the plot you may be thinking “that’s pretty simplistic” and it is but it is more than a kids film. The filmmakers were able to focus more on the jokes and even then there are some honestly tender moments throughout. It’s not an Inside Out level of emotional heartbreak but it may surprise you how well they make you feel for a sheep. Right from the first few scenes this movie had me. We see how the farmer, the sheepdog (Blitzer), and the sheep used to act more like a family but then it turns into a montage of their current daily lives. These sorts of montages can be tricky to do. You’re essentially showing the same thing over and over but it’s not a boring sequence. Not only is it slowly building up the characters taking action but the gags and the music just propel you through it. That’s another thing about the movie, it’s basically a silent film for kids. None of the characters talk. The animals make the occasional noise while the humans all grumble and mumble. However I don’t think anyone, even the very young children, will have a problem following what’s going on or be bored by it. The sound effects and score need to really pull their weight to help tell the story and it never misses a beat.
And here’s another fact about myself, I LOVE STOP-MOTION ANIMATION! I’ve loved it since I was a kid and will always give a stop-motion film a shot. This film is of course made by Nick Park’s company Aardman Animations and the stop-motion here is fantastic as always. There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to the animation. First, to try and get it looking as smooth as possible and make people wonder “was that CGI or stop-motion?” Secondly, to not even try to hide the jerky movements. That’s part of the fun of stop-motion. I must say personally I prefer the second and it looks like Aardman does too. I feel it helps with the tone of the film. However I’m certain there is some computer work in this film but I think it’s probably just for things like extending the boundaries of the miniature sets or compositing different bits of animation to make a more complete picture. It’s a great example of using the different techniques to their best performance.
The characters are all likable and (as said before) always understandable to read their thoughts. There will never be a point where you feel like you needed words from them. Shaun is a great lead character and all of the other sheep are hilarious. It originally sets up the Farmer and Blitzer as antagonists but as the story progresses you see what a real family they are. The villain of the film is Trumper and whatever he’s getting payed (in story) it’s clearly not enough. It’s a gag we’ve seen before in other movies where someone has a simple job that they take way more seriously then they should. They try to look cool while doing something so phenomenally uncool as catching animals and putting them in cages. But here it does work and while it makes him a credible threat it never makes the movie too dark or depressing.
Entertainment Value – 4.5
This honestly is a really funny movie. There are a number of moments that’ll make you go “aww” but also plenty that you’d laugh hard at regardless of what other film they’d be in. One of my favorite moments is a visual pun of a cow getting knocked into the air and flying over a sign that says “over the moon.” Let me put it this way, do you find the “Wallace and Gromit” shorts funny? Then you’ll find this movie funny. However, anyone expecting even a really quick cameo from them will be disappointed but honestly I’m glad they felt they didn’t need them to sell these different characters that stand on their own.
My favorite moment was the use of a song “Feels Like Summer” played many times throughout the film and near the end of act 2 it really shines. You’ll know it when you see it and it’ll get you right in the feels as the kids say these days. If I have any sort of complaint about the film it is that there are a few fart/burping jokes throughout and they take you out of the story. Let me remind you that this is a kids film, a great kids film, that adults will be able to enjoy if given the chance but a kids film all the same.
Rewatchability – 4.5
While I’m sure there probably aren’t any major or minor jokes or gags I missed from the first time watching, it is just a delightful little film and I’m already planning to pick it up on DVD when it comes out. If it shows up on TV or if a younger sibling of mine becomes obsessed with it and I have to watch it a bunch of times, that doesn’t sound too bad for me.
“Shaun The Sheep Movie” may look like a disposable little film meant for the very young but if you give it a chance and just want a charming, funny film then this will do nicely. Seriously, don't let your “I'm an adult, I must see dark and depressing stories to take it seriously” attitude dissuade you from seeing this (assuming you have that sort of attitude.) If you love watching stop-motion then it's definitely worth seeing these masters of the craft do their stuff. If you have kids take them and if you don't still go and see it.