Shaun the Sheep Movie

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What’s 85 minutes long and the least irritating thing Cbeebies Justin Fletcher has ever done? That’s right, it’s Shaun the Sheep Movie.

Aardman’s latest follows the titular hero who first appeared on our screens in Wallace and Gromit’s A Close Shave way back in the 90’s and more recently has had his own CBBC show that’s distributed in more than 170 countries.

Yesterday we attended a special preview screening at the BFI to see what all the fuss is about. Are we sheepish? Not a bit.

Shaun the Sheep is that rarity in modern cinema- it’s a TV show that’s successfully crossed to a feature length production without losing the soul of what made it so special in the first place. Paddington was a good movie but a lot of it was distinctly un-Paddington-like, especially the (mild) peril and overt action sequences. Contrast this with Shaun the Sheep, which has slapstick baked into it’s core from it’s TV days, and it’s easy to see why Shaun is such a success.

The plot is typical Shaun the Sheep- Shaun gets bored by the monotony of farm life and longs for a break from the routine, so he cooks up a plan to put the farmer to sleep and deposit him in a caravan so the farmyard animals can have a day off. Unfortunately, whilst he managed to bribe the duck to keep Bitzer the dog busy while his nefarious plan was enacted, the caravan breaks free from it’s blocks and ends up on a helter-skelter downhill run to the city where the farmer gets a bump on his head and forgets who he is. Shaun feels responsible and has to go and rescue him. Hijinks ensue as the flock follow and have to keep out of the clutches of the evil animal containment officer.

Telling, in a Q&A after the screening, co-director Mark Burton made a big point of the writers focusing on making the film funny rather than getting a quota of jokes that would work for kids and others that would work for adults. This is something the movie makers have achieved, and is in no small part down to the universal appeal of people getting hit with various things in amusing ways. The best sequence is probably the pantomime horse chase, which must rank as one of the best chase sequences in recent cinema. It’s easily as impressive as the car chase sequence in Ronin.

There are so many little touches that had me laughing out loud all the way through- from the staring bug eyed dog in the animal containment facility, to the bungled rescue attempt, and right back to the pigs living it up while the farmer is away.

We took our three kids 8,6 and 3, along and they all loved it. Given it’s relatively short running time of 85 minutes, even the three year old had enough happening over the course of the film to keep his attention focussed. Unlike a lot of kids favourites, there is nothing really unnecessarily dark to scare the little ones- the closest it gets is Bitzer accidentally almost performing surgery in a hospital but even that is handled with typical Aardman sensitivity. This is truly a family movie that the whole family can enjoy. It’s also impressive how expressive the animators have managed to make the stars. While not exactly being a silent movie in as much as it has sound effects and a soundtrack, there is no spoken dialogue in Shaun the Sheep, which on the one hand makes it much ¬†easier for the export market but on the other must have provided a few headaches in plot advancement for the writers. Nevertheless the film runs logically from beginning to end, which is a testament to how clever those involved in writing and directing it must be.

Shaun the Sheep Movie is on general release from 6 February, just in time for half term. Do yourself a favour and take the kids along, they’ll love it and you should to.