THE STORY – When an alien possessing strange powers crash-lands near Mossy Bottom Farm, Shaun the Sheep quickly makes a new friend. Together they must run from a dangerous organisation who wants to capture the intergalactic visitor.
THE CAST – Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes & Amalia Vitale
THE TEAM – Richard Phelan, Will Becher (Directors), Mark Burton & Jon Brown (Writers)
THE RUNNING TIME – 87 Minutes
By Josh Parham
When it comes to the world of animation, it is easy to find people familiar with some prestigious studios known for their output. There are many available that the masses could recognize, though one would venture to guess that the first to come to mind for them would be Disney. Within that brand, most associate Pixar as the pinnacle of animated storytelling. Truthfully, it is difficult to not immediately equate the powerhouse studio as the engineer of quality animated films that manage to appeal to the sensibilities of both children and adults. While their raging success is obvious, they are not the only company capable of producing appealing fare. Aardman Studios has had a slew of films deserving of such praise and their latest offering, “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon,” is another winning accomplishment.
As one can already surmise, Shaun is a sheep who lives on a farm in the quiet town of Mossingham. Shaun is a mischievous schemer, constantly encouraging his fellow sheep to involve themselves in outrageous plans that are usually undetected by their owner, an unnamed farmer. However, they are in constant conflict with the loyal dog Bitzer, who repeatedly seems to thwart the impish projects. When Shaun sneakily orders a pizza for his fellow farm animals one night, a stranger comes into their midst. Lu-La, a childlike alien, has just landed her spaceship in the forest and is now on the farm. Though, this creature is far from menacing and is instead quite inquisitive, friendly, and eager to bond with Shaun. Still, there is danger lurking from government officials that have arrived and it is up to Shaun to covertly help Lu-La return to her home while avoiding the agents in town and Bitzer’s fixated gaze.
Shaun as a character has been around for some time, mostly on television, before making his big-screen debut in “Shaun the Sheep Movie.” The film was an utter delight that was truly a wonderful bit of whimsical pleasure. This cinematic follow-up does not capture as many of its predecessor’s heights but still manages to convey much of the same tone. An immense amount of charm permeates this world, made especially more pointed given there is no decipherable dialogue present. Sight gags are the main source of humor and while not all of them land, there is a cleverness that is impossible to be delighted by. The finite attention to detail is what directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan successfully craft, and the joyous emotion of quality family entertainment is sincerely felt.
While the film works wonders out of its material’s execution, the foundation of the story is where most of its issues lie. The story here aims for simplistic ambitions, which is understandable given the younger-aged target audience. However, there is a flatness to the less effective characterizations and little innovation is present within the construction of the plot itself. There’s a predictable arc that isn’t particularly explored in inventive ways. While the emotional growth of these characters can be moving, it only accomplishes this task on the most basic of levels. Even at a brisk eighty-six-minute run time, the narrative can become tedious with its multiple montages and occasional subplots that slow the pace down. Shaun’s character has worked in exceptionally ingenious concepts before, but the efforts are slightly downgraded here.
At the same time, it is so hard not to be won over by the characters themselves. Since they never utter words, the animation must communicate all of their feelings and actions, and it is displayed in such an engaging manner. Shaun himself is such an enchanting figure with his sly nature that works well with his genuine comradery developed between his friends. Bitzer is mostly used as a comedic foil, but there are many fun moments with him as well. Also, it cannot be undersold how utterly adorable Lu-La is as a character. It would be near impossible to experience a second of her on-screen and not be instantly taken by her compelling attitude and spirit. It’s a slightly easy target, but one that so efficiently melts the heart in the process. One must simply enjoy the ride with this group of loveable personalities.
The choice of what to seek out in terms of films the whole family can enjoy is a daunting task. Stories that can appeal to the youngest of children along with adults looking for captivating experiences often find themselves more on one side than the other. “A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” fortunately strikes a perfect balance. It has such a sweet-natured method in its storytelling that it is immensely endearing, thanks to such amiable characters and witty sequences. Those elements help to compensate for a weaker narrative that can get laborious. In the end, it’s still a highly recommendable film that is another reminder that the good folks at Aardman should be looked at as a place of quality filmmaking that a wide range of ages would enjoy.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – A charming, wholesome piece of family entertainment that is witty and highly enjoyable with endearing and particularly adorable characters. The cleverness in the humor is engaging.
THE BAD – The story can get tedious, causing the pace to suffer. The structure of the storytelling and characterizations are rather basic and not as interesting.