Saturday, January 14, 2023

Shaun the Sheep Movie

One of Aaardman’s best-known works is the popular Wallace & Gromit franchise, which endures to this day. Notably, the third installment in the series, A Close Shave, introduced audiences to the character of Shaun the sheep, who would become popular enough to warrant his own spin-off series, the appropriately-titled Shaun the Sheep, which itself would warrant its own spin-off known as Timmy Time. The popularity of the Shaun the Sheep series would eventually warrant its own theatrical film, Shaun the Sheep Movie. While I’ve only seen a handful of Shaun the Sheep episodes and liked what I saw, my interest in the film came from already being a Wallace & Gromit fan, and after watching the film on home video, I enjoyed every moment of it.

After years of monotony with the same routine, Shaun (Justin Fletcher) sees an ad on a passing bus convincing him that he needs a day off. To accomplish this, he and the other sheep preemptively disrupt the routine the next morning by making sure Bitzer (John Sparkes) doesn’t wake up and putting the Farmer (John Sparkes) to sleep in his trailer. When Bitzer realizes what happened, he interrupts their day off and tries to wake up the farmer, only to accidentally send the trailer rolling out of the outskirts of Mossy Bottom Farm and into the big city. Not too long after the Farmer comes to does he get knocked on the head, resulting in memory loss.

Tired of the same routine, Shaun (Justin Fletcher, top) hatches a plan for a day
off that ultimately goes awry.

Similarly to the show itself, the plot is told entirely through visuals, with a minimal amount of visible written text to aid the storytelling when needed. The added flashbacks to the farmer’s early career, including a young Shaun and Bitzer, help the emotional core of the story while providing backstory on the main cast of the TV series, although the presentation does make one wonder how A Close Shave fits into the timeline, if at all. Regardless, the emotional moments are perfectly balanced by equally funny moments, relying a lot more on visual gags due to a lack of any actual dialogue.

While the main series works well enough within its budget, this film has an obviously bigger budget and takes full advantage of it. As with many of Aardman’s other films, the stop-motion animation is very fluid, with sparing use of CG, plus the new character designs and the big city’s lived-in environmental design feel like a natural extension of the series’ world. While the voice acting consists mainly of grunts, the returning voice cast from the series are able to get a lot of emotion out of said grunts, showing their experience with their respective characters. Omid Djalili does an amazing job in the role of main antagonist Trumper, getting across the intent of the character effectively without uttering a single word.

Believing them to be stray animals, Trumper (Omid Djalili) seeks to capture
the flock by any means necessary.

Whether or not you’re familiar with Wallace & Gromit, fans of the Shaun the Sheep will want to flock to see Shaun the Sheep Movie. Even if you’re not too familiar with the series this movie is based on, I would still recommend animation fans watch it anyway, since it works as both a self-contained story and a great example of visual storytelling.

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