Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
Directed by Mark Burton & Richard Starzak
Since 2007, seven-minute episodes of the claymation series “Shaun the Sheep” have been airing on BBC and Disney Channel in between full-length shows. And since 2007, I have loved it. Its silent slapstick humor is refreshing in an age when scripted children’s shows have become so bland. Naturally, news of a full-length movie adaptation was exciting. The result, however, wasn’t exactly what I anticipated. It turns out “Shaun the Sheep” is better in moderation. Seven-minute sprints are great, but this 85-minute marathon soon becomes tiring.
Shaun is the rambunctious young leader of his herd, corralled daily by The Farmer and the sheepdog, Blitzer. But one day, Shaun decides he’s had enough of this day-in, day-out business. He wants to be free. During his attempt to escape, a series of comical mishaps leads to the sheep, the dog, and The Farmer making their way to the Big City, with its hustle and bustle and power-hungry animal control agents. And even worse, the sheep are separated from their protectors. The unlikely farm crew will have to put their heads together to get them all out of the city and back home.
Claymation is a beautiful art, and the animators of “Wallace and Gromit” and “Chicken Run” (yes, they’re the same people who created “Shaun the Sheep”) seem to be some of only a few people who still do it…or do it well. The claymation in “Shaun the Sheep” is beautifully intricate, a strong asset to the silent events happening on screen. When the story becomes cumbersome, you’ll be glad you have something to look at. It makes you wish more animators would take the road less travelled.
“Shaun the Sheep” communicates its plot well without speaking a single word. Instead, grunts and nods give us all we need to know. The story, and the roadblocks the sheep face along the way, are clever…but for the first half, “Shaun the Sheep” lacks anything especially compelling. It’s hard to stay awake when the only intelligible sounds are a few songs that play during montages. By the end, though, you’ll want to know what happens to Shaun and his pals. It’s a cute story with a satisfactory (if childlike) conclusion. It’s certainly unlike every other PG movie this year. And for the most part, that’s a good thing.