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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Shaun the Sheep Movie movie review: sheep in the city

Shaun the Sheep Movie yellow light

Charming in that gloriously detailed Aardman way, but with its simple slapstick humor, it’s strictly for the littlest tykes.
I’m “biast” (pro): love Aardman cartoons

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

I love Aardman’s lovingly handcrafted stop-motion claytoons, but I never had any interest in their TV series Shaun the Sheep — spun out of the Wallace & Gromit short “A Close Shave” — and I see now that I wasn’t really missing anything. The first big-screen outing for Shaun and his barnyard friends is charming in that gloriously detailed Aardman way — down to the airplane contrails in the sky above and the visible fingerprints of the animators in the clay — but it’s strictly for the littlest tykes. Its simple story has Shaun, the small flock of which he is the nominal leader, and the drill sergeant of a dog, Bitzer, heading into the Big City to find their Farmer, who has disappeared after a bit of a mishap with a runaway camper van. (Unlike with Aardman’s other movies, there’s no real dialogue here, just a lot of inarticulate, though expressively emotional, grunting and sighing from the animals, and garbled not-quite-speech from the humans. Justin Fletcher supplies the voice of Shaun, such as it is; John Sparkes does Bitzer and the Farmer.) The humor is almost entirely of the slapstick kind, though the mistaken-identity misadventure the Farmer gets caught up in will be of some mild amusement to the adults in the audience along for the ride. But any Aardman fans hoping for the witty wordplay and social satire of Wallace & Gromit will be disappointed.

See also my #WhereAreTheWomen rating of Shaun the Sheep Movie for its representation of girls and women.

yellow light 3 stars

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Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)
US/Can release: Aug 07 2015
UK/Ire release: Feb 06 2015

MPAA: rated PG for rude humor
BBFC: rated U (mild slapstick, threat, rude humour)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Microwave Princess

    I don’t understand how you could get subtle word play from a silent film?

  • Danielm80

    Well, Shaun sounds like shorn, if you have the right accent (as MaryAnn pointed out on the other thread). Admittedly, you can’t hear the accent in a silent film, but I’ve seen wordless stories with all sorts of complex social commentary and subtle emotional nuance. Take a look at books by Shaun Tan, like The Arrival, for example.

  • Yeah, you basically can’t. But not everyone who might want to see this (based on the Aardman brand) is going to know in advance that it’s effectively a silent film. *I* didn’t.

  • Mark Newman

    Ignore this reviewer… this is a movie for kids of all ages. The reviewer is looking for something clever in a silly movie so she’s bound to be disappointed and confused, but fans of the TV program can rejoice – Shaun is as silly as ever!

  • Bluejay

    So, it’s a “silly movie” and she shouldn’t be “looking for something clever” in it, but at the same time it’s “cleverer” than she is? You can’t have it both ways.

  • I saw what you call in-jokes. They’re nowhere near as clever or interesting or surprising as we’ve come to expect from the other Aardman projects.

    I’m glad you enjoy Shaun, but I can only call ’em like *I* see ’em.

  • RogerBW

    Sounds as if it’s a good match to the series – which I certainly enjoy when I’m in that sort of mood, but an episode only lasts seven minutes, and I wouldn’t watch twelve of them in a row.

  • NorthernStar

    I adore the series, which is aimed at the 7-12 age bracket, and airs on CBBC, but like most shows on the channel, it’s audience is far wider. And it richly deserves it.

    We saw this film last night and thought it was brilliant; quite possibly the funniest comedy I’ve seen in years. It doesn’t reach the heights of Chicken Run but what could?

    The sheer (!) amount of riffs, in-jokes and visual gags were everything I’d expect from Aardmen. And the silent movie issue is handled brilliantly (but I can see this would be a shock for those unfamiliar with the series).

    Brilliant stuff and well worth your time.

    PS – familiarity with the fantastic Horrible Histories might help for when Bill arrives in theatres. Or maybe not, but watch it anyway. Hand’s down the best comedy on TV.

  • Danielm80
  • Keiko Kitagawa

    I like shaund the sheep :) is ferry funny hihihi :)

    do you have poster shaund the sheep?

  • Allen W

    Mary Ann,
    For what it’s worth, you might still enjoy the tv episodes. They’re only about 10 minutes long, and I much prefer their pacing to the movie.

  • I’m sure you’re correct. But there’s tons of other stuff I’d rather watch first.

  • TXTom

    It’s a really charming movie for the entire family, it’s enjoyable for children and adults of all ages; it’s both silly enough and smart enough.

    This reviewer sounds like someone who takes herself rather seriously. She shouldn’t waste her high-level mindpower on insignificant movies of this sort, especially if she feels no connection to children or family activities.

  • You’re charming. Thank you for your concern.

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