This feature length outing for kids’ favourite Shaun the Sheep and friends will delight comedy lovers of all ages. It has all the wit, invention and charm of the Wallace & Gromit films, with added visual humour and daftness making up for the absence of human dialogue.
When the daily grind of life at Mossybottom Farm begins to grate Shaun takes inspiration from an advert on the side of a bus: ‘Have a day off’. His plan involves bribing the duck to take care of Bitzer, the farmer’s dog (slices of bread instead of banknotes), while Shaun and his woolly friends put the farmer to sleep in time-honoured fashion – jumping over a gate while he counts them.
Farmer, dog and sheep end up in different parts of the Big City, via careering caravan and coach, leaving the naughty pigs to party in the farmhouse. Unknown to Shaun and his friends, their gormless carrot-haired farmer, having been bopped on the head by a pelican crossing beacon, is now in hospital suffering from amnesia. The rest of the film involves the animals’ attempts to find their boss while trying to evade the clutches of nasty Animal Containment Officer, A. Trumper (voiced by Omid Djalili).
As you would expect from Aardman Animations, the clay modelling and miniature world of the film is exquisitely done. There is a cosy northern Englishness to Wallace & Gromit, a sort of retro Hovis advert glow. In Shaun the Sheep the city high street is more gleamingly modern, with its charity shops, Tandoori restaurants and hairdressers. Here, there is gentle satire aimed at today’s celebrity culture: the farmer is transformed into Mr X (the name on his hospital wristband) when, mistaking clippers for shears, he gives a famous customer the ‘Shaun’ cut. Soon everyone wants it and Mr X becomes a sensation, appearing on billboards and in a Banksy work of graffiti.
Any nostalgia in the film is aimed at the 1980s rather than the 1950s. The farmer’s Walkman is coveted by Shaun and is instrumental in reuniting them. The song it plays, though, is new. Every Day Feels like Summer is an original composition by Tim Wheeler from Ash and ex-Kaiser Chief Nick Hodgson. The film’s makers obviously like their Indie music – look out for the torn poster advertising a gig by John Cooper Clarke and The Fall.
Another cultural reference has Shaun finding the farmer’s Blue Peter badge, which brings to mind the sticky-back plastic ‘make do and mend’ skills needed by Shaun (and Gromit before him) to get out of tricky situations. The animals build some splendid Heath Robinson-esque contraptions from the city’s rubbish dump and use them to defeat the increasingly demented Trumper and escort the farmer back to home sweet home.
This hugely enjoyable ‘clay-mation’ film includes some tour-de-force set pieces. It has a chase to rival the skateboard scene in Back to the Future, if not the model railway chase from The Wrong Trousers. Very young children might find the animal ‘prison’ scenes disturbing, with a Hannibal Lector ‘lampshaded’ cat and staring psycho dog, but the film’s censor info at the start refers only to ‘mild slapstick, threat’ and ‘rude humour’, which can only refer to the farmer’s bottom cleavage.