Shaun the Sheep Movie from Studio Aardman, aka Aardman Animations, does it again, they go back to that Nick Park well. This time however, the Creature Comforts (1989) creator, Park himself, is in the producer’s chair versus the director’s one. In some ways it is blatantly obvious from the first frame when one observes that there is no discernible dialogue.
Sounding more like a episode of Morph, but deeper and with a decidedly Scottish bent to it, the dialogue consists of sounds. Grunts, partial “almost” words and a kind of “Sim” speak make up all “lines” in the stop motion film. (Nod if “Sim-Speak” means anything at all, think expresso drinking…)
Apart from this irritating decision to keep any of the “people” type characters from speaking, Shaun the Sheep Movie will be hit with both young and old audience members. There are enough sight gags to keep even the smallest shaver happy and enough “homages” to grown up films to keep a Simpson’s fan happy, who may have accidentally strayed onto this film.
(The Simpsons are mentioned just for the Cape Fear reference toward the end of the film. One that the yellow colored cartoon family did so well on the television show with Sideshow Bob versus Bart…)
The plot of Shaun the Sheep Movie is not too different, it seems, from the television show source. Shaun and his little sheep mates decide to have a day out and it all goes colossally wrong. The farmer gets a conk on the head and forgets who he is, the sheep and the dog all wind up in the nick (animal jail) and after some antics it all works out in the end.
Perhaps watching too much Wallace and Gromit (and hearing the delightful Peter Sallis saying “Cheese! Gromit!”) has spoiled any other characters in the Aardman stable (see what we did there) like Shaun, who actually first showed up in A Close Shave. The little wooly creature soon spawned his own series but has never really been a personal favorite.
Add to this the mumbling and muttering of each character and this one leaves a little to be desired, in terms of “acting” per se. Still, there are enough gags and homages to make the film interesting to a wide ranging audience.
There are jokes aplenty, the farmer becomes an amnesiac celebrity hairstylist and the sheep all dress up like people. Since no one can really speak anyway, the lamb’s bleating comes over as “language” so they fool everyone.
Shaun the Sheep Movie has a cracking soundtrack and enough action to keep the little ones from getting distracted. There are a number of “exciting” action pieces although nothing on scale of Curse of the Were-Rabbit or The Wrong Trousers. (Once again Wallace and Gromit features with brilliant action set pieces; the train or the flying arcade plane for example.)
The main fun for the grownup viewers of this Aardman offering will be all the various nods and winks to other films and genres. Critics have waxed ecstatic about the film and ratings are high for this “silent” grunting film. While dialogue would have improved the film for this viewer exponentially, the overall effect was one of amusing action and clever homage fun.
The youngsters will love more childish antics of Shaun the Sheep Movie while the adults will appreciate the trouble that Mark Burton and Richard Starzak went to making the film one that everyone could enjoy.
A 4 out of 5 star stop-motion animated feature that would have gotten a full 5 if the character’s had talked (or had Peter Sallis in it). Good fun regardless of the lack of real dialogue. Studio Aardman do it again and give us entertainment for the whole family.