Shaun The Sheep Movie is another Aardman production that draws as much of its inspiration from quaint old-fashioned Englishness as anything else. It is difficult to imagine another children’s animation that focuses this much on farm life and caravans. Another advantage to this film is that it is practically a silent film, which means that the jokes have to come thick and fast and the film can’t get bogged down in too much plot. The film then is madcap, flinging ideas and jokes about without much concern for pacing and structure and is all the more fun for that.
Shaun has become bored with life on the farm. The farmer has become set in his ways, sticking rigidly to an imposing schedule that leaves no room for variety. One day, Shaun sees a holiday advertisement for recommending a day off and decides to get rid of the farmer just for the day. This plan, however, goes horribly wrong and the farmer ends up lost in the big city, suffering from memory loss, and it is up to Shaun and the other sheep to find him and bring him home. Things are complicated by a enthusiastic animal catcher.
Odd as it is to review a children’s film about some cheeky but industrious sheep, the film does have some problems, most of which, admittedly, it overcomes. The design of the characters here does not allow for much expression and it is difficult to really care about them. Apart from Shaun, the other sheep are interchangeable and it is hard to distinguish any particular characteristics between them. This means that you never really feel that you are watching characters, just some dumb sheep, and it is difficult to stay emotionally involved. Though a problem, this does not matter too much – the film is more than funny enough to keep it going through its reasonable 85 minutes.
Where other Aardman films were overstuffed with plot at the expense of actually being funny, Shaun the Sheep Movie keeps things simple, preferring uncomplicated, silly situations and types. Indeed, there is no reason for the sheep to intrude on a posh French restaurant or for Bitzer, the farmer’s dog, to be dressed as a doctor, running along hospital corridors on all fours or attempting surgery. This preference for jokes and good comic timing over anything else works because the jokes are quite good (even a dated Silence of the Lambs reference with an angry cat raises a chuckle) and the film has a higher hit rate than most comedies.
So the animation is likable, the film has a nice quaint feel and, most importantly, it is actually quite funny. It doesn’t have the charm of, say, last year’s Paddington but it does join the likes of Penguins of Madagascar and the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs films, all being children’s films that are inventive and funny enough to delight anybody. Even the awful cash-in song over the end credits is quite funny.