Most studios would be horrified at the idea of an animator filming three seconds of footage a day and it being seen as a good thing. Then again, most studios aren’t Aardman Animations. The studio who are most famous for Wallace and Gromit and uses stop motion clay animation, have long been famous for their incredible attention to detail and wonderfully crafted movies. Yet, even for them their adaptation of Shaun the Sheep felt like a stretch. Based off a show that airs on CBBC and generally runs for around seven minutes, it is the story of Shaun and the farm he lives on. The added hitch in big screen plans, is its complete lack of dialogue.
The film, like many films before it, sees Shaun leaving the farm and heading to the big city. There he discovers that his farmer has had a knock on the head and is suffering from amnesia, which for reasons you have to watch to see, has led to him becoming a world-famous hairdresser. Of course, Shaun is not alone in his adventure, as the whole gang come along, including Bitzer the wonderfully belligerent dog. Unsurprisingly, things don’t exactly go to plan and the gang ends up in sorts of hi-jinks, most of which revolve around trying to escape from Animal Control, which is run by a particularly fun hating man, with a wide range of tricks up his sleeve.
What you get from all of this, is a film so lacking in cynicism, that I don’t see how you can’t enjoy it. It’s a horrible reality that most children’s films are a bit rubbish, because studios believe if they have a major license or a particularly colourful character, kids will come and see it anyway. Aardman couldn’t stray further from that belief. This is a film you can see the love oozing off of. Every shot is jammed full of incredible little pieces of detail, that you will only pick up on your third or fourth watch. Aardman has the wonderful ability to say more with the rise of an eyebrow, than many others say with ten minutes of dialogue.
It’s that ability, which makes the physical comedy here so brilliant and in many ways points to how the lack of dialogue has helped, rather than hindered the film. This kind of comedy is universal, I challenge anyone – whether they are two years old or forty years old – to not laugh at this film, dancing pigs are funny no matter your age. It is the kind of physical comedy than never ages and insures that years from now, this film will still be delighting audiences.
Finally, you can’t help but love a film with this cast of characters. They may never say a word, but even as someone who has never actually seen the short form version of this show, you feel like you know all of them by the end. Shaun has more personality than most action movie characters and the cast of sheep around him all grow into themselves as the film goes on. There is the scampering baby sheep, who constantly finds himself in spots of bother and Slip the downtrodden stray, all wonky teeth and a wish to be loved.
Most importantly however, Shaun the Sheep never once feels like a big film sell out. It keeps that wonderfully small time British feel and essentially works as a warm hug of a movie. Much like Paddington last year, it has been put together with love and devotion and if you are looking for a family film to warm your heart, then it is definitely the one for you.