11 February 2015

Review: SHAUN THE SHEEP

The memorable quotes page for this one isn't exactly going to be chocka. In much the same style as the animated series from which it is adapted, Shaun the Sheep Movie revives the classic storytelling mode of silent comedy, now spread over a feature length running time. The result is another gem from the world's most British movie studio, Aardman.

There are no world-saving stakes here- the story is deliberately, beautifully simple. Shaun and his flock are fed up of the daily grind and buy themselves a day off by incapacitating the Farmer and accidentally leaving him lost, with amnesia, in the Big City. Together with the Farmer's right hand dog Bitzer, they set off to rescue their master, resorting to various hilarious means of disguise to avoid the clutches of the determined animal containment operative, Trumper.

The joy of each new Aardman film is quickly tempered by the immediate realisation that the next one is at least three years away. Following the unaccountable US box office flop of The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists, Shaun the Sheep is at once a smaller film than previous efforts and yet more accessible. It's obviously not about having a working knowledge of the CBBC series (although it's well worth a watch) or even Shaun's debut alongside Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave, but it's even simpler than that.

As with Mr. Bean, silent comedy transcends all language barriers, even in something as unabashedly British as this. And as in any of the company's previous films, the gag rate is consistently high and there are plenty of background jokes to enjoy. The stop-motion maestros have made even more work for themselves than usual, with nothing in the way of dialogue except grumbles and baas. I can't imagine that the script, written by directors Richard Starzak and Mark Burton, was particularly long, but the sheer visual density of the feature is mind-boggling.

Shaun the Sheep is a beautifully simple feature, which achieves the near impossible in sustaining the charm and humour of the 10 minute televised morsels for 90 minutes of the same. There's not quite as much specifically for older fans, like Curse of the Wererabbit's Hammer horror references or The Pirates' historical parody, but its brand of silent comedy is the kind that has always been funny to viewers of all ages. In Aardman's own inimitable style of escalating comedy, it's funny from the very beginning, right through to the last gut-busting sight gag. Start counting down to their next feature now.

Shaun the Sheep Movie is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
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I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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