Shaun the Sheep The Movie (2015)

Same Sheep. Different Turf.

Making his first appearance in Nick Park’s 1995 Oscar winning Wallace and Gromit short, A Close Shave, Shaun the Sheep has certainly come a long way. Shaun the Sheep The Movie is the latest animation offering from the British production studio Aardman Animations, who brought us the much-loved Wallace and Gromit series. Based on the long running kids television show Shaun the Sheep, which has become a global hit since it first launched in 2007, the film focuses on a clever, mischievous sheep who lives with his flock on Mossy Bottom Farm. As a mother of an 18-month-old boy, I am quite familiar with the show and its premise; often finding myself watching episodes on my own, long after my son has gone to sleep. As an open fan of the series, this new full-length-feature adaptation thankfully does not disappoint, as Shaun the Sheep The Movie essentially encapsulates all the fun and excitement of its small screen counterpart, but on a much grander scale.

Oh, life's a treat with Shaun the Sheep!
Oh, life’s a treat with Shaun the Sheep!

Shaun the Sheep The Movie begins with a flashback of the early days on the farm, when The Farmer originally came to acquire both Shaun, voiced by Justin Fletcher, and his faithful dog, Bitzer — a well-meaning but ineffectual sheepdog — along with all his other sheep friends. The story then moves onto a montage, which depicts the Sheep, now much older, going about their humdrum daily routines — anyone who watches the series should recognize these scenes as the opening to the show — resulting in Shaun believing that he deserves a day off. Hence, Shaun, along with his companions, devises a plan to get The Farmer to fall asleep so that they can enjoy themselves for a day of rest and relaxation. Alas, in typical Shaun the Sheep fashion, things don’t go according to plan as events rapidly escalate out of control, inadvertently leading to the hapless Farmer being taken away from his home and eventually hitting his head and losing his memory. Nevertheless, Shaun and his friends swiftly come to the realization that life on Mossy Bottom is chaos without The Farmer and embark on an adventure into the Big City, intent on saving their chief and returning him to the green grass of home.

Laugh-out-loud jokes and imaginative plot twists fuel this fish-out-of-water yarn, with several stand out moments coming to mind, particularly a baa-rilliant sequence where the sheep dress-up as ‘humans’ and attend a fancy restaurant, whereas a valuable lesson about the unintended consequences of counting sheep is rather amusing. Chaos unfolds when Shaun is eventually caught by ‘bad guy’ Trumper, the robust, square-jawed pest catcher from animal control — voiced by British Iranian stand-up comedian and actor, Omid Djalili, The Mummy (1999) — which flows onto a clever side-plot where The Farmer — through his forgotten but deeply ingrained skill with a pair of clippers — accidentally gives a famous person a ‘Shaun’ haircut and stumbles into a new career as a world famous hairdresser, now known as Mr X. This plot line serves as a witty spoof on the current trend of absurd fads stemming from various social media outlets. Moving forward, the Sheep eventually find The Farmer, who does not remember them, in turn leaving our woolly heroes heart broken. As luck would have it, Shaun and Bitzer later discover that The Farmer has in fact lost his memory and formulate a plan to re-jog his foggy mind.

A-baa Road
A-baa Road

Introducing new characters in the form of Trumper from animal control — inspired by the title character in the 2009 American comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop, an overweight security officer who acts as though he’s a police man — and Slip, the stray dog desperate for a parent, aiding Shaun and his friends along the way, one cannot help but enjoy the individuality of these characters and what each of them bring to the dynamic of film. With ‘shear’ inventiveness such as this, it’s no surprise that Shaun the Sheep has become the most successful animated character in Aardman’s history — even surpassing the phenomenally popular Wallace and Gromit. Given the producer’s bold choice to opt for a film without dialogue — a voiceover could have easily been used — there’s so much to enjoy in Shaun the Sheep The Movie, predominantly as it echoes the likes of Buster Keaton, The General (1926), or Rowan Atkinson’s Mr. Bean — with first-time directors Richard Starzak and Mark Burton viewing several silent movies in order to refresh their memories, examining the way these flicks conveyed humor. The fast pace and quirky narrative should keep both young and old laughing and entertained by way of its adult humor as well as the worn-out ‘fart’ jokes or slapstick comedy, which always seems to amuse the little ones.

With music from Ilan Eshker, Stardust (2007), and the feel-good catchy tune, ‘Feels Like Summer’ performed by Tim Wheeler — the Northern Irish guitarist, songwriter and vocalist for the rock band Ash — the flick’s soundtrack translates well alongside Shaun’s escapades, with lyrics often conveying the emotions, or unspoken dialogue, of the characters; it may actually take certain viewers the duration of the picture to realize that the film features no real spoken words. With a lean 85-minute run time, this amusing misadventure is sharp enough to delight youngsters — who hopefully won’t get too restless — and short enough for adults to enjoy without ever over staying its welcome.

Small Sheep. Big plans.
Small Sheep. Big plans.

Animated in the notoriously long-winded, labor-intensive stop-motion process, one that requires extraordinary patience, Shaun the Sheep The Movie is an absolute triumph and a testament of technical wizardry. Although slightly biased — being a fan of the lovable, large-eyed Shaun, with his crop-top hairstyle and simple face — Shaun the Sheep The Movie comes recommended. For those familiar with Shaun the Sheep and those that are not, I’m confident patrons who flock to see Shaun the Sheep The Movie will exit the theater with smiles on their faces, which will no doubt remain long after the final credits have rolled, as this ambitious effort is the season’s most enjoyable family flick — baa none!

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by L. Jackson

Shaun the Sheep The Movie is released through Studio Canal Australia