God bless those wonderful artists at Aardman. Responsible for some of the most beloved claymation creations of the last 30 years, it truly feels like a privilege that they can still exist and produce films made through such a painstakingly patient form of animation in a world where most animated movies are of the CG variety. This October holiday, they are baack (I can’t promise I’ll stop with the sheep puns) with another Shaun the Sheep movie, following on the hooves of both its original TV series and the 2015 feature film, with this sequel joining the flock of Aardaman’s delightful animated offerings that all the family can enjoy.
Farmageddon largely operates as a broad spoof of classic science fiction films and TV, as the plot finds the mischievous farmyard Ovis Aries coming to the aid of an adorable alien with special powers, Lu-La, who has been left stranded on planet Earth with the government hot on its trail. Cue sci-fi slapstick shenanigans galore.
Like its predecessor and TV show, Farmageddon has pretty much zero dialogue, with most of the communication between characters delivered through grunts, gestures, and bleating. As much, these films play to a much broader dynamic by looking more towards silly visual gags and the kind of punditry that Aardman has excelled at in the past. In the case of Famageddon, many of those gags come from riffing on classics on sci-fi, with everything from E.T. to Aliens getting a nod here and there, be it through a straight-up spoof or little details across the background.
The plot itself is a complete riff on E.T. with Shaun trying to help a new intergalactic friend find their way home. It means that this is all very familiar affair, playing along to the beats you expect while finding the time to drop in some sweet and silly gags and character interactions along the way. The character of Lu-La is very much the highlight, particularly as it becomes apparent that this alien is in fact just a child separated from their parents. It leads to a lot of childish mischief as Shaun and Lu-La head across town, but also some very sweet, incredibly cute family-friendly peril along the way.
As was the case with the first film, there is a simplicity to the Shaun movies that is both a cause for celebration and something that holds them back from reaching the heights of the studio’s very best movies and shows. There’s something very infectious about the sweetness and silliness of its chaotic brand of humour and of course, there’s plenty of background gags to get find throughout, but other than that it’s fairly thin-film trading in on familiarity of genre, you manage more in order to keep parents entertained. The animation itself, while undoubtedly well crafted, never quite has the same sense of scale as something akin to the likes of Chicken Run or Pirates, which only ensures that this just never quite registers as vital a piece of animated cinema in the same manner as those movies do.
Shaun is a more humble creation out of Aardamn’s back catalogue. He and his film are very content in delivering something that’ll play to a broad audience with elements that are heart-meltingly cute, very silly and all occurring at the rapid pace of a sugar rush. For families looking for something to distract for 80-odd minutes this half-term, then flocking to this latest from the storied claymation house should leave everyone happy. It may be Aardman making candy floss, but what sweet candy floss it is.
Dir: Will Becher, Richard Phelan
Scr: Jon Brown, Mark Burton, story by Mark Burton and Nick Park, based on characters created by Park
Cast: Justin Fletcher, Joe Sugg, John Sparkes, Kate Harbour, David Holt, Chris Morrell
Prd: Paul Kewley
DOP: Charles Copping
Music: Tom Howe
Run time: 87 mins
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is released in UK cinemas from October 18th.