Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 25 min.
Release Date: August 5th, 2015 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Mark Burton, Richard Starzak Actors: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Kate Harbour, Emma Tate
haun the Sheep Movie” continues the Aardman Animations tradition of bar-setting stop-motion “claymation” visuals, mixing plenty of humor with hair-raising hijinks. And there’s a surprising amount of hilarity during the farm animals’ consistently creative escapades – all without a single line of dialogue. A broad appeal is derived simply from fascinatingly constructed characters, offbeat expressions, and meticulously detailed sets and attire. Pop culture references do make an appearance, but the bulk of the laughs comes from the elaborate predicaments befalling the colorful cast and the equally outlandish solutions they devise to win out. Though the perils never reach an emotional intensity on par with Pixar’s finest, the rambunctious adventure rarely falters in delivering wholesome entertainment that will bring a smile to the faces of children and adults alike.
Tiring of the monotony of farm life, Shaun (Justin Fletcher) and his fellow sheep develop an intricate plan to circumvent their farmer (John Sparkes) in order to take the day off. When their plan goes awry and the farmer winds up in the Big City with amnesia, Shaun and Bitzer the dog must head into town to retrieve him. But the mission becomes far more daunting when additional obstacles, such as a crazed animal containment officer (Omid Djalili) and the arrival of fellow sheepmates, compound the situation, forcing Shaun to form new alliances and concoct further schemes to get everyone home safely.
As with all of Aardman’s projects, careful attention is paid to the details. This translates into brilliantly rib-tickling character designs, with each role exhibiting discernible idiosyncrasies, facial quirks, and anatomical exaggerations that make for highly amusing players. A combination of cute and funny goes a long way in spicing up mere background characters or personas that pop up for a single kooky glance.
While the farm animals are all anthropomorphized for the sake of streamlined interactions with their surroundings and various props, subtler jokes are made through the refusal to adhere to specific rules. The critters all have a grasp of the English language and can sketch convincing schematics, yet they exchange guttural sounds for communication or must point to advertisements and logos on vehicles for clarification. This is made more hilariously complex when quick moments reveal a dog using toiletries, a rooster augmenting his crooning with a bullhorn, or when the whole gang of bovid must impersonate humans as they infiltrate the town (eventually donning clothes, which doesn’t seem like an altogether foreign activity). Wittily enough, at one point the sheep even harmonize and beat-box.
Through outstanding slapstick, imaginatively choreographed chase sequences, and all manner of visual gags, an engaging story unfolds, only presenting a lull on one or two brief occasions. This is particularly impressive considering that the film relies on not a single word of blatantly spoken dialogue for exposition. There’s something fascinatingly Chaplinesque or Keatonesque about the abandonment of dialogue for musical cues, artistically repetitive imagery, miming, and referential guides. It’s all universally understandable – and there’s no need to be familiar with the successful TV series that started in 2007. And while it may not be constantly laugh-out-loud funny, the film possesses a very regular pace of grin-inducing mischief and mayhem that results in an overwhelmingly pleasant cinematic experience.
– The Massie Twins