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December 30, 2015

Shaun the Sheep Movie

by Franz Patrick


Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
★★★ / ★★★★

Tired of their usual routine at the farm, Shaun and his fellow sheep decide to put their owner to sleep and have the day to themselves. But one thing leads to another which results to the farmer ending up in the hospital with memory loss. A few days pass and the farm is turning into a pigsty. So, hoping to fix their mistake, Shaun and his pals go to The Big City to collect their owner, but it turns out it is not an easy feat to find him especially with a highly enthusiastic Animal Containment Unit personnel following their tracks.

Written and directed by Mark Burton and Richard Starzak, “Shaun the Sheep Movie” is sure to entertain viewers, especially young children, who find amusement in mistaken identities, slapstick, and anthropomorphism. The plot is appropriately simple and straightforward, but it moves at a constant pace so it is never boring. In addition, the stop-motion animation is beautiful and there are visual acrobatics at every turn.

Animated films worthy of the audience’s time command infectious energy. There is plenty of that here, right from the opening scene where we observe the every day chores the farmer, his sheep, and his sheepdog named Bitzer go through. Because this type of animation requires a lot of time to create, the filmmakers must be highly efficient. It shows that a lot of planning has gone into it. Note that there is no noticeable wasted time: it sets up a potentially amusing situation and then goes for the punchline within five to ten seconds.

The characters are easy on the eyes even though each of them has a quirk in terms of appearance. For instance, although the sheep do not speak using words (but they can communicate using unintelligible sounds), we notice each one as the story opens in the farm and can tell them apart even when in a group in the middle of the city. It helps that they are also given superficial personalities.

Two scenes are absolute gems in terms of the partnership between its animation style and comedy. One involves Bitzer disguised as surgeon in a hospital accidentally entering an operating room. All eyes are on him as humans wait for the incision to commence. The other involves the sheep disguised as tourists sitting down in a fancy three-star restaurant. Creativity is abound in these two scenes. I was surprised with how invested I was about them not getting caught.

A most distracting element, however, is its use of soundtrack. The picture works as a pseudo-silent film and so turning on the music and having someone sing about what the characters are going through or how they are feeling takes us out of the experience. Instead of paying attention to the images and absorbing the aura of the situation, we cannot help but pay attention to the words because it is so foreign within the material’s established context.

“Shaun the Sheep Movie” is highly enjoyable and offers more than handful of amusing gags. There is a warmness to the characters not only when it comes to their looks but also in how they recognize a problem and execute a potential solution. And like the characters, the film is inventive and delightful.

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