Friday, August 14, 2015

Shaun the Sheep Movie Review

I keep saying that Stop-motion animation is a dying art. Yet I keep finding and reviewing stop-motion animated movies, even new releases. Is it making a comeback? Aardman Animations is the British animation studio known for using stop-motion animation and bringing us films like Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Chicken Run, and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Their latest film, Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) is based off of the television series of the same name, whose titular character was introduced in the Wallace and Gromit short A Close Shave (my favorite). Shaun the Sheep Movie is every bit as delightful and charming as anything we've come to expect from Aardman Animations.
Shaun the sheep is tired of doing the same work at the farm every day. He decides to take a day off. In order to do that, he needs to make sure the farmer doesn't know.  A mix up with the Farmer, a caravan and a very steep hill lead them all to the Big City. Shaun and his flock explore the Big City hoping to find their farmer, who is suffering from amnesia. Along the way they buy disguises, dine at fine restaurants and rub elbows with celebrities, all the while attempting to elude an arrogant animal-control officer. It's up to Shaun and the flock to return everyone safely to the green grass of home.
When the Shaun the Sheep television series was started up, Aardman Animations needed to keep the budget down. Manipulating the characters' mouths for stop-motion animation is very time-consuming and gets to be expensive, so the program became dialogue-free and was a huge success. Similarly, Shaun the Sheep Movie doesn't have a single spoken word. It's effectively a silent film the same way The Triplets of Belleville and WALL-E is. There are still sound effects, and characters still make vocal sounds; they just don't say anything. But even without dialogue the meaningful animation is so well done that you can still tell what the characters are thinking or communicating without needing the dialogue. Like most Aardman's films, this one feels both decidedly British and universal. The farmer's Wellington boots and Fair Isle sweater place him squarely in the UK, but the film's dialouge-free format has helped it to appeal to a broad range of counties and ages; there's nothing to dub over or subtitle, so international appeal is inherent.
The humor is largely slapstick and totally silly. I love cartoon physics and slapstick, and this movie is loaded with it! You can easily get a lot of mileage out of a nearsighted farmer and his loyal dog being rescued by a flock of dim-witted sheep. There's also many spoofs inserted here and there that only adults will catch including Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Taxi Driver, The Silence of the Lambs, The Shawshank Redemption, and Breaking Bad. The cone-wearing cat who bears a more than striking resemblance to Hannibal Lecter was one of my favorites. I laughed a lot during this movie and got a big kick out of it. The humor is witty and simple enough to appeal to a broad range of audiences of any age.
Stop-motion animation is different from the much more popular computer animation. It has a sense of realism to it. Sure, I've seen some computer animation that looked remarkably realistic, but it was still digital graphics and lacked something that made it actually real. With stop-motion animation, it is actual photographs of actual objects. Even when it is stylized and cartoonish, it still has a realistic quality that computer animation hasn't quite achieved yet. I like stop-motion animation, especially when it is left in its pure state, without stylistic additions of computer animation as was done in ParaNorman. Shaun the Sheep Movie sticks to its guns and holds true to this century-old style of animation and it is animation perfection.
Shaun the Sheep Movie is cute, warm, fuzzy, funny, and remarkably well animated. I loved it! It's good, clean fun that will appeal to a broad range of audiences of all ages. The slapstick is hysterical, the movie references are a hoot, and the characters are highly lovable. There is not a single negative thing I can say about this movie. I want to see Aardman Animations make more movies like this, which is why I have no misgivings over spending money on a movie ticket to see this Shaun the Sheep Movie. Please go see this in theaters; it's the kind of film we want to encourage studios to make.

Do you have a favorite Aardman Animations movie or short? Comment below and tell me all about it!

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