The Film: Shaun the Sheep Movie
The Pitch: Animal Farm meets One Man and His Dog
Shaun and his fellow sheep are disgruntled with the Farmer’s adherence to his rigid schedule, which leaves no room for spontaneous fun, but when he goes missing in the Big City, the flock and sheepdog Bitzer leave their rural home to hunt for their pal, all the while eluding a power-mad animal containment officer.
Number of Nominations: One
Which Category? Best Animated Feature
Will it Win? Most likely, Inside Out will take the prize (and that’s fine – Inside Out is a good film). Anomalisa is a little too weird for the Academy, I think (four words: stop motion animated cunnilingus). I have not seen the other nomintaed films yet (Boy and the World; When Marnie Was There). It would be lovely of Shaun the Sheep Movie won, simply because it’s such a charming film.
It’s rated “PG for rude humour” but there’s nothing at all crass about the film. It’s a wonderful, family-friendly thrill, and is refreshing for its lack of important life lesson (if there is a moral, it’s that old standby: there’s no place like home).
Aardman Studios has always had an old-fashioned approach to filmmaking. Not only does it eschew computer animation in favour of stop motion; its outlook on the world is rooted in a different time, an age when small farmers tend their livestock without the aid of massive machinery, English summers are always warm and sunny, and people sport Blue Peter badges unironically.
There’s generally some level of mistrust of the modern world in their films, and Shaun the Sheep Movie continues that tradition.
Le Chou Brûlé, or The Burnt Cabbage
The film manages to get a few good digs in at the likes of social media, internet memes, and Banksy. It’s a fish-out-of-water (or sheep-out-of-the-field) tale: much of it takes place in The Big City, an odd, noisy, scary place filled with danger (mostly from the movie’s villain, the animal containment officer).
Although there are several celebrity voices lending their talents to the film, Shaun the Sheep Movie is almost a silent movie. As with previous Aardman films, the plot begins simply enough, but the elaborate lengths that characters go to, and the outrageous consequences of their actions, push the story into the same cinematic realm where Chaplin, Keaton and Tati live.
It also has a lot of great movie and TV references.
Its ninety-minute running time breezes by, the story propelled by a host of imaginative, hilarious sight gags, a jaunty banjo-filled country music score. and a few choice songs on the soundtrack (including stuff by acts as disparate as Primal Scream, Madness, Foo Fighters, and Kid Creole and the Coconuts).
Verdict: Four and a Half Pantomine Horses Filled With Sheep out of Five