Wednesday, August 5, 2015

'Shaun' shepherds laughs to the screen

The makers of the Wallace and Gromit movies score again with Shaun the Sheep Movie. Shaun, of course, already has his own TV show, but he makes the transition to the big screen with the ease you'd expect from Aardman Animations, the British outfit that has given us movies such as Flushed Away (2006) and Chicken Run (2000). Using its signature stop-motion technique, Aardman mixes abundant helpings of slapstick and cleverness. The result: a winning story about a sheep rebellion that sends the farmer who cares for the movie's flock to the big city. At first the sheep (as well as all the other farm animals) revel in their freedom, but they soon realize that there's no one around to feed them. So it's off to the big city where Shaun -- followed by his brothers and sisters in wool -- searches for the farmer, battles with an "animal containment" officer and even stages a jail break. Not surprisingly, the plot supports lots of amusing gags. Stricken by amnesia from his comically bumpy ride to the city, the farmer becomes a famous hairstylist. Shearing sheep and creating sculpted hairdos? What's the difference? Although Aardman's animals have anthropomorphic qualities, they don't speak in cuddly Disneyesque fashion -- or any other fashion for that matter. Neither do the humans, who grunt and mumble in ways that may strike you as more expressive than much of the dialogue you've heard this summer. Aardman doesn't oversell its jokes or congratulate itself for cleverness, but it does roll out a movie that should go a long way toward pleasing younger audiences, as well as the adults who bring them to the theater.

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