Aardman Animations features claymation animals much more intelligent than the humans they live with. First there was Wallace and Gromit, the man and his dog. Then came Shaun and his unobservant farmer. The plot lines seem based on P.G. Wodehouse’s Bertie and Wooster where the clueless gent needs to be saved constantly by the superior intelligence of his butler.
In Shaun the Sheep, the farmer gets up every day after the rooster crows, then he opens the door which squashes the dog, a loyal underling at Mossy Bottom Farm. The sheep all get up too and attend to their feeding. This relentless routine begins to pall. Shaun, inspired by an ad promoting vacations on a bus that has pulled into the road, decides that the farm could use a break. He tricks the farmer into a deep sleep (I wish when I counted sheep my sleep was that deep!) that results in much more than one day off from the rigors of farm life. A runaway trailer carrying the farmer speeds to the big city where most of the action takes place. The farmer’s head injury and memory loss resulting from the trailer’s crash landing send the animals to retrieve the farmer and restore the old routine they realize they want back. In the process they encounter a villain from animal containment who acts like Rambo in his quest to rid the city of all stray animals. He just didn’t know who he was up against when he encountered Shaun, and his new pal, a mongrel dog used to snacking from garbage cans.
Aardman Studios characters do not need to speak, but have the grace of silent comedians. The slapstick, choice sound effects and occasional bursts of music tell the story. There is a passing nod to outdated technology, and references to celebrity culture make the movie feel very contemporary. The superior editing sets the rhythm in the first few minutes of the movie, and makes the story not just watchable but a great pleasure. The song, “Feels Like Summer, ” has the catchy pop sensibility of a classic summer feelgood anthem. It is played repeatedly throughout the movie, and sung beautifully by the Baa Baa Sheep Quartet. I don’t know why the sheep all talk out of the sides of their mouths, but I love the relationships between animals and humans.
If you are sick of superhero movies with unbelievable special effects and too much noise, try a bunch of animals acting silly in aid to clueless humans. Try Shaun the Sheep. Click here for more about Shaun, and Aardman.