Directors: Mark Burton and Richard Starzack
Starring: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Kate Harbour, Stanley Unwin
Written by: Mark Burton, Richard Starzack and Richard Golezowski
Running Time: 85 mins
Release date: 8th February 2015
Innocence is a hard thing to convey on-screen without it looking morkish or sickly sweet. Children’s films often get it completely wrong and it ends up feeling uncomfortable or vomit inducing. Not with Aardman animation. The Bristol-based company manage to get it right every time and at the same time, leveling a degree of wit, intelligence and good-natured fun that doesn’t interfere or distract from that sense of wide-eyed wonder. So when they decided to bring to the screen their popular CBBC shorts, Shaun The Sheep, you felt slightly trepidation. Can they keep that magical sense of fun and child-like innocence in tact. The answer, I’m glad to say, is absolutely.
Shaun and his sheep friends go through the same old routine, day-in, day-out. In order to break that routine, they manage to make the Farmer fall asleep and put him in a caravan to rest for the day, while they run amok on the farm. However, the caravan rolls away and heads for the big city, and during the bumpy journey the Farmer lose his memory. Shaun and his friends must try to find him and bring him back without being caught by the evil Animal Catcher, A Trumper.
As with all the Aardman animations, their attention to detail is incredible. Everything from the characterizations to the surroundings and even objects in the background are carefully placed together. Unlike other film companies, you always get the impression that they don’t just make good movies, they put their heart and soul into them.
Like the TV shorts, there is absolutely no dialogue, just sounds, grunts and murmurs. So to express emotions and feelings, they have to be conveyed by the clay creatures themselves. Not an easy task and yet they all have their own unique ways about them. Along with that, each sheep has its own character that is brilliantly drawn out, so you can distinguish each and every one.
Apart from the love and attention, the film makers also have a great understanding of cinema. Shaun The Sheep, the TV series, are small-scale adventures, usually set around the farm. Even though here the setting has expanded, with “The Big City” as their playground, it still has lost that feel of the series. Yet at the same time, its also very cinematic and it works just as well on the big screen as it does in your home.
The humour is very gentle, very British and occasionally a little naughty without having to be crass or obscene. Borrowing from the style of French comic genius Jacques Tati with the use of sound and slapstick, this isn’t just pratfalls to keep the kids happy. The jokes are nicely set up and delivered with impeccable timing. After 15 minutes, I found myself laughing harder than I have at most other comedies and impressed by the cleverness of the ideas.
Although this is aimed at a younger audience, there’s plenty for the adults to enjoy as well. Plenty of references from other movies (a very clever take on The Wolverine, for example) that some children might miss but older children won’t. It also has a message, that of the importance of friendship, yet it isn’t hammered home or preached like you would find in Hollywood animations.
Shaun The Sheep Movie does dip slightly in the middle and it doesn’t completely match up to, say, Chicken Run, but its bizarre sense of the surreal, ideas pouring from every frame and a gentle, non-threatening delivery, it’s still a huge delight for the whole family and one that, if you are a child, you will love and if you are an adult, you’ll feel like a 6-year-old all over again.