This line, spoken of Shaun the sheep in the theme song to his highly popular kids TV show, could easily be spoken of Aardman Animations (albeit with a few grammatical alterations). Since Chicken Run back at the start of the millennium, the studio has had hit after hit on the big screen, even with the less critically well-received Flushed Away. They have a knack for crafting endearing adventures that delight audiences young and old and their latest effort continues that stellar run of form.
In all honesty, even as an ardent Aardman fan, I had some doubts whether a TV show pitched at younger viewers could make the transition to the cinema. Each episode contains a short story resolved by the closing credits and runs for 7 minutes – twelve times shorter than the 85 minute feature length stated on IMDB. Does the concept still entertain with an extended runtime? Of course it does, and with such aplomb that I’m ashamed I even entertained those concerns in the first place.
The setup is brilliantly straight-forward. Desiring a day off from the same schedule, Shaun hatches a plan to distract The Farmer, but the ploy goes awry and it’s up to Shaun and his flock to locate their master in the big city and bring him home. Whilst it may not have the narrative depth of Curse of the Were-Rabbit for instance, it’s so jam-packed with fun moments that it turns into an hilarious adventure. This, in no small part, is down to the collective talents of all those working at Aardman and their fine-tuned understanding of visual comedy.
As viewers of the TV show will already know, Shaun the Sheep – like its stop-motion compatriot Pingu – contains no dialogue at all. The closest it gets are the mumblings of The Farmer which are indistinguishable as spoken words.Therefore all the comedy must come through expressions, actions, and the careful arrangement of objects within the frame; exactly the same rules that governed the great silent comedies of Chaplin, Lloyd, and Keaton. It’s a visual language that’s difficult to get right, but one that allows so many opportunities for laughs to be packed into a widescreen space. Suffice to say that the creators have a fluency perhaps only matched nowadays in the work of Edgar Wright.
Diversity is also key to the success of the humour because while the film is squarely aimed at children, it contains a range of sophistication to the jokes that will also appeal to adults, such as the sprinkling of clever pop-culture references which are sure to please seasoned cinephiles. This is arguably the best measure of a kids film, in that it isn’t a film solely for kids. It’s an utter delight for those of all ages.
Leaving the rib-ticklingly universal humour aside in closing, Shaun the Sheep Movie is also full to the brim with joy and warmth. I believe this is due to medium of claymation which has a wonderfully tactile quality that is always evident, even thought it’s easy to forget about it when caught up in the adorable character design. You’ll know what I mean when you see baby Shaun. I don’t have much more to say other than it’s a lovely movie. Get out there and see it. And bring as many family members and friends along so you can all share in its warm and fuzzy feeling.