A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Review by Trevor Johnston

Directed by

Richard Phelan Will Becher

Starring

Joe Sugg John Sparkes Justin Fletcher

Anticipation.

Aardman’s stop-motion craftsmanship and daft British humour promises a jolly time.

Enjoyment.

An overlay of E.T. gives the farmyard frolics a welcome twist.

In Retrospect.

A high chuckle quotient and warm-hearted feel-good factor.

Aardman’s woolly hero has an unexpected visitor in this warm-hearted stop-motion sequel.

Stop-motion animation has always had a reach-out-and-touch quality that you just don’t get from traditional line-drawn or digitally composed equivalents. A significant element of Shaun the Sheep’s charm is feeling like you could almost give his woolly coat a little pat, which presumably also helps with toy sales. Starting out as a supporting character in the Wallace & Gromit short A Close Shave, smart and mischievous Shaun has worked his way through his own TV series and now a second full-length feature – all without bleating a single word.

The burbling dialogue-free storytelling means relatively simple child-friendly plots, sustained by a steady flow of sight gags, as the first Shaun the Sheep movie busied itself with a rescue narrative template familiar from Toy Story 2. Second time around, Shaun and the Mossy Bottom gang find their fortunes entwined with an alien visitor, who just wants to return to their distant home planet. More than a few nods to E.T. for adult viewers who grew up on Spielberg, then, and it certainly plays on parental separation anxieties in a time-honoured celluloid fashion harking back to Disney’s Bambi.

Mainly though, the tone is more frolicsome than fretful. Unfolding in delightful hand-made settings from farmyard to big city and the sinister HQ of the (ahem) Ministry of Alien Detection, it has open-hearted Shaun bonding with bouncy extraterrestrial Lu-La over a shared desire to get one over on the forces of authority. First they need to find the latter’s missing flying saucer, while at the same time the Farmer has his faithful hound Bitzer and the rest of the flock building a theme-park to convert the area’s rising UFO-fever into funds for a new combine harvester.

There’s just enough going on to sustain 86 minutes of amiable fluff, though the character design of Lu-La, which seems to blend doggie, fishy and Teletubbie elements, proves rather less loveable than the rest of the round, woolly sheep and their intriguingly skewed sideways smiles. This being Aardman, the various gizmos and bits of farm-machinery prove happily ramshackle, while the outer-space elements have a low-tech comic-book vibe even more rudimentary than Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks.

All the slapstick pratfalls are beautifully timed and briskly cut together, while there’s always enough time to scan the frame for delicious bits of business – like the poster for the missing dog clad in the same hi-viz protective gear as his government scientist master, or the competition in the farming magazine enticing viewers to win their own weight in muck. There are a few moments of strain and not every gag is comedy gold, yet overall it certainly tickles the cross-generational funny bone and Shaun himself, irrepressibly naughty yet affectingly open-hearted, remains a fluffy icon for young and old alike.

Published 17 Oct 2019

Tags: Aardman Joe Sugg John Sparkes Justin Fletcher

Anticipation.

Aardman’s stop-motion craftsmanship and daft British humour promises a jolly time.

Enjoyment.

An overlay of E.T. gives the farmyard frolics a welcome twist.

In Retrospect.

A high chuckle quotient and warm-hearted feel-good factor.

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