Monday, October 19, 2015

Shaun the Sheep

Written and directed by Mark Burton, and Richard Starzak. Also written by Nick Park. Starring Justin Fletcher (Shaun/Timmy), John Sparkes (The Farmer/Bitzer), and Omid Djalili (Trumper).

Bottom line: Really cute, happy, and fun though it works better as episodic shows rather than a full length movie

Shaun the Sheep is a full-length movie from the makers of Wallace and Gromit. I didn’t realize, until later, that this was based off of a show of the same name. In retrospect, it makes sense why it is named Shaun the Sheep: The Movie.

The film opens with a montage of the daily routine of the sheep, the farmer, and his dog. It’s day after day of the same thing. After a while, the sheep get tired of the monotony. With their adorable and charismatic leader, Shaun, the sheep hatch an innocent plan to get a little vacation. They just want to trick the farmer into thinking it’s still night time so he stays asleep. Unfortunately, the plan goes awry and the farmer finds himself in the “Big City” with amnesia. Shaun, his fluffy friends, and the farmer’s dog have to find a way to rescue the farmer, all while avoiding the hazards of city life, most notably the Animal Control Guy.

The animation is the main component of Shaun the Sheep and it’s wonderful. It’s colorful and soft but expressive and cute. There are a number of fabulous little details like a bit of a tongue to emote concentration or making the eyes feel slightly more open to show surprise. Over the past couple years, I’ve been slowly warming up to Claymation as a medium but this seals the deal. I love it.

I always forget how important sound is to a movie until I see a movie with really good sound. Shaun the Sheep is one such movie. The buzz of clippers, the sound of water, and the rustle of fabric really add to the experience.

Shaun the Sheep has little to no dialog; it’s more of a pantomime but with the characters saying gibberish. Like the sound, the lack of dialog makes Shaun the Sheep more fun and forces you to focus on the animation. There are a couple of exceptions like the music. There are a couple of songs played at different points in the movie that have English lyrics. I wouldn’t have considered this but, because there is no dialog, I subconsciously latched onto the English lyrics and it felt forced. I think it would’ve been more successful if they sang in gibberish or simply had instrumentals.

I found the TV Show on Amazon TV Prime or whatever it’s called. It’s available for streaming there. In the case of the TV show, each episode is broken down into independent segments. I like this format. How much complexity do you really need after all? The show is about cute little sheepies doing cute little sheepie things.

To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to this movie. The trailer seemed to highlight burp jokes and crude humor but, fortunately, they weren’t a major part of the film. (Of course they were still there).

Overall, I’d recommend Shaun the Sheep. I’d definitely recommend the show. I’d give the show a 3.5/4 instead of the movies 3/4 because the characters and “plot” lend itself to a segmented show but, with this in mind, I still really enjoyed the movie. The animation is adorable, the sound is great, and the story is ok. Before ending this review, I’d like to mention something else that I liked but, mind yourself of spoilers for this next part.

From the introduction, where we watch Shaun and his friends grow weary of their routine, there was a little knot of dread in my stomach. How were they going to handle the ending? When the Shaun and company gets the farmer back, what were they going to do? Were they going to say, “We had our adventure but let’s get back to what we truly like, the routine?” That would be really depressing!

But it was such a relief when they tore up the schedule and went to the park. Sure, they would still probably have to do stuff, it is a farm after all, but the relationship between the farmer and his sheep had development to something greater than it was at the beginning of the movie. It’s that relationship is part of a larger point that I’d also like to discuss.

There is a really pleasant sense of humor in Shaun the Sheep (both the film and show). It isn’t malicious (the sheep don’t resent the farmer or do any mean tricks) but there isn’t a particular hesitancy when performing tricks or carrying out schemes. One episode, for example, Shaun kicks a soccer ball into the farmer’s kitchen and see’s a bunch of cakes and deserts. He gets the soccer ball, a couple bites of cake and then grabs a bunch of deserts for his friends. I suppose it’s stealing but it feels so innocent. It’s like there is this laid back attitude towards everything that I find really relaxing. Sure, they shouldn’t be eating the sweets but, it’s ok; the farmer had a ton and he can easily make more.

Have you seen Shaun the Sheep (the movie or the TV show)? Again, the TV show is on Amazon and, if you have Prime, it is free to stream. I’d highly recommend them both. Thanks for reading!