Out of all the films that were based on a TV show, Shaun the Sheep is probably an extremely rare breed, mostly by how the character came to be today. He began all the way back in 1995 as a rather curious side character in the Oscar-winning Wallace & Gromit short, A Close Shave. Fast-forward to 2007, Aardman decided to make plans with the sheep and give him his own TV series, which actually became a major hit in the UK. Heck, some could say that he even became as popular as Wallace & Gromit themselves. But now that Shaun has his own movie 20 years after his first appearance, will his adventure be as grand as Wallace & Gromit’s movie or is this just one big pile of sheep? Let’s find out
The one word that describes this movie best and that you might hear me say quite frequently in this review is simple, and this is very evident in the story. As it is a film based directly on a TV show, this really feels like the kind of plot that was originally meant for one episode, but the people at Aardman decided to extend it into an 85-minute film. Even when describing the plot, it doesn’t really sound like much. It’s about The Farmer who got lost in the big city and now Shaun and his gang has to find him back. What’s so interesting about this? Well, this is why it’s all about the execution. It knows very well what made the series work and they intergrade it into this film to truly capture the spirit of Shaun. It’s not about the complexity of the writing; it’s the charm of its simplicity. It’s a movie driven by clever visual gags and hearts of the characters and that’s what turns this plot that seems rather bland into something that’s heartwarming, funny and surprisingly suspenseful. It also helps with the fact that, since it is based on a TV show, it does have an excuse to be simplistic. The story is the not kind that can be explained, but it’s the kind that you have to experience in order to get it.
For plenty of animation fans, it’s always a pleasant sight to take a break from computer animation and enjoy some nice Aardman stop motion, and this is no different. Similar to how the story is executed, they let the simplicity bring out the movie’s charm. What’s very interesting to note is that, out of all the films they’ve done, this is the one where the signature Nick Park / Aardman design seem to fit well the most. Not to say that the looks don’t work in the other movies, they are fine in there, but the way they’re designed is to look more cute and simple rather than action packed, and that’s exactly what this movie is. So the design really helps with the movie’s tone. As for the character animation, this is where the film’s fun factor comes in. A lot of this movie depends on visual gags and a bit of action and work very well, always having an enjoyable moment and can even pick up the pace when moments get intense. If there is one downside for being simple, it’s that it has to also LOOK simple. Yes, it does have its charm and it knows how to have fun, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for any creative moments. Even the locations seem very generic, like they’re in a farm and a big city, nothing special. There’s not much that’s highly memorable visually and doesn’t bring out anything new like in Aardman’s previous films. But even with that, it’s still great to see some nice stop motion from our favorite British animation studio.
The ironic thing about this movie is that the characters have a very unique way of being simple, which I’ll get to soon. As characters themselves, there’s absolutely no complexity in them other than a little hint of who they are. We got Shaun who is the brains of the sheep, Bitzer is the loyal dog keeping the farm in order, Trumper is the villain who is out to capture our heroes and all the other sheep have a bit of their own looks and personality to distinct themselves. The only one that goes through any sort of development is The Farmer, since for most of the film, he has his own story arc where he has memory loss and gets a new identity. What makes these characters so effective and lovable is not through their complexity, since there is none, it’s their motivation. You really do care for these sheep to bring back The Farmer in order for things to get back to normal at the farm. Even their hint of a personality somehow really expresses who they are and helps bring out their charm. By the way, did I forget to mention that nobody ever talk in this film? Seriously, not even the farmer or any of the other human characters ever say a word. The most they would say is just a bunch of mumbles. The only times you would ever hear someone speak is through the soundtrack. It’s definitely weird that a movie nowadays would do that, but it’s ok. Again, nobody ever talks in the show, so it would make sense for no one to talk in the movie. In a way, it’s what makes the film’s simplicity charming. We don’t need words to describe what’s going on, that’s left in the hands of the animators. And that’s what makes the characters so enjoyable. There’s not a lot about them, but there is a lot for us to like them.
Don’t let the simplicity of this movie fool you. Sure, it looks like your average and generic kids movie that’s about a bunch of sheep, but Shaun the Sheep movie is actually very engaging, charming, heartwarming and funny. All with some enjoyable animation and lovable characters. Of course, if you’re a fan of Aardman’s works or you love Wallace & Gromit, then this is definitely worth checking out. I even recommend this for those who want something that’s fun for the whole family. It’s simplistic and very easy to follow, but a lot of fun in the process.
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