The film “Shaun the Sheep” is gleeful and warm-hearted, with enough laughs and excitement to offer its intended young audience, yet also charming enough for non-kids to enjoy. With a pleasing sense of detail in its animation and strong characters to boot, even the silliest of slapstick-style hijinks feels like a wonder.
Most parents with young children will recognize “Shaun the Sheep,” a TV show whose titular character is an uncommonly smart, well … sheep. Originally a spin-off to the popular and long-running “Wallace and Gromit” franchise, “Shaun the Sheep” is similarly stop-motion based, with a peculiar sense of charming humor that certainly doesn’t betray its British origins (it also has some production roots in France and Germany).
While “Shaun the Sheep Movie” may not be the most creative of titles, the film — and series — itself is a novel delight. At an era where most shows and movies aimed at children are flourished with computer-generated imageries, Shaun’s clay-based stop motion style offers a delightful amount of personality that elevates even more modestly funny moments into visual escapades. The physicality of the claymation may very well remind older viewers of the imaginative wonders of playing with toy figures as children.
Naturally, the film takes a mildly more storied approach than the TV series. Here, Shaun’s not ingeniously mean idea of getting his flock a day off backfires when their master, the aptly named Farmer — through a series of Shaun’s maneuvering — receives a thump on his head instead.
Ending up at a city hospital with no memory, Farmer struggles to remember how he ended up there.
Feeling both guilty and missing Farmer, Shaun and his band of merry sheep come down to the city to try and locate him.
Bitzer, Farmer’s trusted sheep-dog, has the same idea.
Once there, they run through an expected, yet never dull series of silliness with one key storyline involving an overly dedicated stray catcher.
The backdrop that runs throughout, not only captures the wondrous mundanity of the characters’ goal — to locate their master and friend — or their comedic naivety, but lends off a wistful nuance towards simplicity.
Even as the characters arrive in the city the laid-back feeling still permeates, with none of the major cityscapes nor bright luminosity of big towns.
Everything is slightly more electrified yet retains the TV series’s unsophisticated nature.
Aardman Studios, which produces the “Shaun the Sheep” and its related franchise, keeps it grounded with remarkable restraint: none of the modern self-conscious or ironic touch, which sometime breezes through kids entertainment as if to throw the adults a wink.
At 85 minutes, the film is just the right amount of laid-back heehaws and story. Though certainly far more “childish” than most modern animation, “Shaun the Sheep” is endlessly charming and delightful.