Shaun The Sheep owes a debt to his Aardman predecessors Morph and Gromit, claymation trailblazers who elicited laughs from their audiences with little more than a well-timed frown or sarcastic raising of the eyebrow. This in-house influence is pretty clear in Shaun’s feature length transition from small to big screen. Eighty-five minutes long and without a single word of reasonably comprehensible dialogue, it’s a ballsy creative avenue to tread and one that shows that Aardman understand when they’re onto a winner with a tried and tested gimmick.
Another well-worn contrivance for the elongation of your show’s running time into that of a full blown movie is to take your characters on holiday à la: Kevin and Perry, The Inbetweeners and the entire staff of Grace Brothers department store. Perhaps Shaun doesn’t get quite as far as the Costa Plonka, but the sentiment as the same. Shaun‘s efforts to engineer a day off from regular farm duties leads to the induced memory loss of their farmer and a trip to the archetypal “Big City” to rescue him, avoiding pest control as they go. In essence, it’s a well-worn British televisual-to-cinematic trope; stick your characters in an unfamiliar setting and let the fish (sheep) out of water (farm) comedy ensue.
Aardman has its home-spun, low-key, kitchen-sink charm down to an absolute tee and with the Shaun the Sheep The Movie they continue much of their previous good work. Shaun was the stand out character from 1995’s Wallace and Gromit short, A Close Shave and the endearing little fella has lost none of his sheep-y charm. If anything he’s gained a bit; he’s craftier now than he was in the nineties.
Perhaps Aardman’s optimism is also, in some respects, its weakness. One of the most satisfying elements of the Wallace and Gromit shorts was their ruthless sense of narrative economy. Essentially, you were treated to a mini movie in thirty-odd minutes. At 85 minutes in length, the Shaun the Sheep the movie drags it’s feet a little. An hour or so in and I felt like I’d had enough of a pretty good thing. This feels a little like a 45 minute Christmas Eve special, a little carelessly stretched out to fill a running-time more befitting a feature.
Cute, genial and not lacking Aardman’s usual wit. Nevertheless, a little more cut and thrust is in order.
Genre:Animation, Adventure, Family ‘Distributor: Studicanal Release Date: 6th February 2015 (UK) Rating: U Director:Mark Burton, Richard Starzack Cast: Andy Nyman, Nick Park, Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes