By Corrina Antrobus @CorrinaCorrina
Aardman is back with a delightfully silly story of how a little sheep herds himself around the big city and uses friendship and teamwork to get home sweet home.
Shaun, who’s now got a little more wool on his chin after ageing-up from his 1995 appearance in Wallace And Gromit – A Close Shave, finds that his life is starting to feel a little like Groundhog day. The creature comforts of his familiar farm and the daily grind of his sheepish duties are beginning to grate. Shaun knows home is where his heart is – the opening sequence of faux Super 8 footage of his happy lamb-hoo jingled with the catchy ‘Everyday Feels Like Summer’ lyrics, prove he’s from a happy home but this sheep needs to see what’s on the other side of the gate.
Using his quick wits, adventurous attitude and a runaway caravan, he finds himself on route to The Big Smoke. This would be all well and good if he didn’t immediately find himself prey to the local animal catcher and hadn’t accidentally inspired his sheepish mates to follow him as if he were the Pied Piper of the M25. Sheep, eh?
Their new urban retreat provides a conveyor belt of comedy as the flock try and fit in to the metropolis. Aware they won’t pull the wool over the eyes of the city folk in their usual rural get-up, they don the appearance of the urbanites by dressing up to fit in. But it’s not just the look of the everyday people they need to adopt, it’s also the social norms – a concept that resonates with any new fish in a big pond.
Diners in a posh restaurant act as observatories to the disguised sheep as they mimic the eating habits with hilarity. As well as rib-tickling the younger viewers, it’s a poignant scene for adults who will be amused by the reminder that how, and what, one eats is still an peculiar measure of class. Of course this dining experience inspires chaos and the orchestrated mess that follows just adds to the kinetic energy and the merry mayhem that ensues throughout.
Like the TV version, Shaun The Sheep remains dialogue-free discounting the odd grunt and suggestive cooing (provided by comedian Omid Djalili in what may be the easiest buck he’s ever made). It’s what Buster Keaton would have created had he known how to create stop-motion animation and get handy with the Plastacine. The silence of the lambs (sorry) works a charm and gives emphasis to the visual gags and pun-tastic wordplay signature to Aardman’s handiwork.
It’s with charming effect to see writers and directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak get back to their grassier roots after their cinematic feats of Arthur Christmas and The Pirates! saw their Plasticine people venture to fantastical worlds afar. Shaun The Sheep trots on cosier, homelier grounds, and makes a lovely extension for anyone who was warmed by the great British bear hug and our last major animated gem that was Paddington. That’s not to say it’s less polished. We can only imagine how much of a neck-ache stop-animation must be to produce, but as ever Aardman have delivered sublime results that look effortless in its telling of a genuinely heartfelt tale.
Shaun The Sheep is on general release from Friday 6th February