Aardman Animations can rightfully claim they are the kings of clay animation. The four-time Oscar-winning animation studio started out by winning the hearts of the British public and later garnering international acclaim with their quite brilliant Wallace and Gromit films, all the while remaining faithful to their highly distinctive stop-motion clay animation techniques.
Now, these pioneers of plasticine have returned to charm the woolly socks off cinema-goers with a Shaun the Sheep movie, a full-length cinematic outing for the eponymous Shaun, one of Aardman’s most popular animated creations, who comes leaping gleefully onto global cinema screens in this animated adventure comedy.
Shaun and his flock of ovine amigos live on the wonderfully named Mossy Bottom Farm, but frustration over the boredom of a monotonous daily routine has started to set in and Shaun devises a plan to take a day off from the farm.
However, Shaun’s intricate plan sets in motion a series of accidental comic mishaps involving frantic countryside chases and a runaway caravan, ending with a farmer lost in the “Big City”, suffering from amnesia and swapping sheep shears for a pair of clippers in his new-found profession as a hipster hairdresser. Realising the chaos they have created, Shaun and co attempt to make amends by dressing up as humans and tracking down their beloved farmer all over the city, while avoiding the clutches of an overzealous animal containment officer.
As you’d expect from such bonkers plotting, Shaun the Sheep is chock-full of slapstick comedy and hilariously surreal visual touches that will make kids giggle with glee, while blink-and-you’ll-miss-it references to films such as Silence of the Lambs and Night of the Hunter will keep the adults entertained. The virtually wordless soundtrack (who needs words when you have grunts, snorts, farts and expressive eyebrows?) gives this film a genuinely universal appeal and recalls the best silent comedy of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin.
Though lacking the outright genius and originality of the Wallace and Gromit films, this family-friendly movie is a visually rich delight full of brilliant detail and sheep-shaped humanity. A shear joy!
By Robin Davies