The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie is the latest effort from Aardman Animations, the British company specializing in stop-motion animated fare. Their work which includes Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run, and Flushed Away - has plenty of devoted fans. I've always been a more casual admirer, having liked, but not loved, their general output. (The Pirates: Band of Misfits is the primary exception, as I found it dull and uninspired.) Shaun the Sheep is generally a little simpler than most of their other big-screen productions, which is ultimately a benefit. This is a fine example of the Aardman folks doing what they do best.

The story begins on the small Mossy Bottom Farm, where the scores of sheep have grown bored with the never-changing daily routine of eating and getting sheared. One day, they decide to sneak off for an afternoon of fun and frolic. After tricking the farmer into falling asleep, they plot their escape. Something goes wrong, though, and the farmer's trailer is accidentally sent hurtling down a country road, eventually ending up all the way in the Big City. One particularly industrious sheep named Shaun goes out to bring the farmer back. The rest of his friends, as well as herd dog Bitzer, end up tagging along. They soon discover that the farmer sustained a bump on the noggin and is suffering from amnesia. There's also a mean animal control officer intent on capturing them.

Shaun the Sheep Movie is utterly dialogue free. (The humans speak in nondescript mumbles.) For that reason, everything is conveyed through the characters' facial expressions and bodily movements. Aardman again shows that words are not necessary to tell a story. All the major characters have very distinct personalities, and we know exactly what's going on at all times, even without speech to guide the way. What they do with stop-motion animation is astounding.

There's not much substance here, but it doesn't really matter. Shaun the Sheep Movie is filled with funny slapstick hijinks and clever bits of humor. A scene in a restaurant is particularly hilarious. The sheep, disguised as humans, try to assimilate by imitating another patron. When he drops his silverware, they all drop theirs. When he burps, they all do likewise in unison. Also of great amusement is the way the farmer's sheep-shearing abilities come into unexpected use, inadvertently landing him a job at a stylish hair salon. The film presents one oddball comic bit after another, most of which succeed in both generating laughter and being simple enough for young kids to follow.

Running a brief 78 minutes (not including end credits), Shaun the Sheep Movie oozes charm. The characters are cute, the comic predicaments are inventive, and there's even a touch of emotion toward the end. Again, this is not as sophisticated or meaningful as, say, Inside Out, but it's not really meant to be. And that's okay. Shaun and his wooly friends do a fine job of winning your heart.

( out of four)

Shaun the Sheep Movie is rated PG for rude humor. The running time is 1 hour and 25 minutes.

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