Cuddly goodness or a wolf in movie clothing?
I did not know anything about Shaun the Sheep. I did not know it is a currently running tv show that spun off from the revered Wallace and Gromit. So I came into this experience with a totally fresh eye. I looked around the room at the sets of parents and children wondering what was about to happen. As the previews rolled, one animated movie after another projected its advertisement on the screen. All complete with wise cracking, fast paced, contemporary dialog. I sighed to myself, “wouldn’t it be nice to have an animated film that had no dialog? It’s been too long.”
I must have been connected with the spirits of the universe that evening because Shaun the Sheep this happy little film fulfilled my wish – using nothing beyond grunting and small amounts of gibberish that perfectly get the point across. I wish my coworkers would take this approach more often.
Shaun is a crafty and smart farm sheep who decides the daily drone of waking up, eating food, getting herded, and going to bed is just too monotonous and hatches a plan to temporarily get the farmer and his dog out of the way so that the sheep can have a few hours of relaxation and rest. But when the simple plan goes awry, the sheep of the farm find themselves heading to the big city to recover their poor farmer who got lost with a case of amnesia.
Shaun the Sheep is brimming with gleeful inventiveness. The animals of the universe are secretly anthropomorphic, hiding their abilities when the humans walk past. One scene of inspired genius has the sheep dressed in people clothes, attempting to fit in at a high end french restaurant, an experience they know nothing about. They mimic their human counterparts even down to all dumping their silverware off the table because they see one person drop his fork. This is a particularly standout moment in a film of often quiet and subtle humor that plays for big laughs. Their ruse quickly escalates out of control until finding themselves face to face with a tenacious animal control specialist who takes his job far too seriously.
The plot of them avoiding animal control whilst trying to find their owner and bring him home is mostly cute window dressing for the skilled claymation and unique set pieces of sheep lost in the city. This movie is about joyous invention, wonderful spirit, and a free education in story telling. Which is why, I soured a little bit near the end when the animal control officer goes overboard. His rage at being duped by sheep somehow had to go to a violent place. It played a bit jarring in a movie this sweet. But that’s only a short 10 minutes in an otherwise pleasant romp through the playful minds of writer/directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak.
I loved hearing the kids around me laugh but I enjoyed hearing the parents letting go even more. And I was fascinated as one animated child’s shoes kept lighting up as he kicked his legs out giggling.
Go and have a really nice time. If Terminator, Mission Impossible, and Jurassic World are steak and potatoes, then Shaun the Sheep is sorbet. A really nice palette cleanser that helps wash away the overly dramatic films of summer is exactly what the doctor ordered. At 85 minutes it feels like 80. A easy investment of time that will give you back more than you require and you’ll be happier for the time spent.