Tuesday, August 11, 2015

[Review] Shaun the Sheep

I'll come out and say that I am not very familiar with the "Shaun the Sheep" TV series. But what I can say is that the Shaun the Sheep movie stands alone as a charming and intently detailed, standalone animated feature. It's also *gasp!* dialogue-free.

Shaun and his sheep comrades decide escape their farm for the heck of it, and in the process they end up taking a bus ride into the city. But of course, it's quite the culture shock for them. They engage in some fish-out-of-water antics, or more accurately sheep-out-of-farm antics (buying clothes, going to restaurants, unknowingly eating a hot chili pepper), and they have to steer clear of getting caught by terrifying Animal Control. Pretty soon, they realize the big city is not for them, and they attempt to escape and make it back to the farm safely.

It's essentially like an animated silent film (even a bit Chaplin-esque at times). There's a lot of energy and much focus on physical comedy, tightly coherent visuals, and an easy to follow narrative. It all works wonderfully. (Hopefully) No one is going to get bored or put off just because no words are uttered. There's heart here, too. In one of the film's simultaneously poignant and humorous scenes--Shaun gets locked away in an animal shelter, and when a family comes in looking for a pet, all the animals prop up their appearance and put on their best faces.

We can't end this without mentioning the exceptional visuals. Aardman Animations is responsible for multiple gems (including Chicken Run, and the under-appreciated Arthur Christmas), and they have another one on their hands with Shaun the Sheep. The claymation is top-notch here, and the settings display various textures of wood, fuzz, and metals. It all looks very three-dimensional and depth-filled despite not requiring clunky 3D glasses. You might catch yourself just staring at and admiring the animation--just wondering about the great skill that was needed to craft it.

Shaun the Sheep conveys a sweet and simple ending that is almost welcomely cliche: "There's no place like home."


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