When one has grandchildren, one becomes familiar with all sorts of children’s programming that has escaped notice previously. For my younger granddaughter, that journey has included the gentle and charming antics of Shaun the Sheep, from the makers of Wallace & Grommit. The cartoon series featured seven-minute vignettes of mischievous sheep led by the clever Shaun, the beleaguered watchdog Bitzer who served as a farm foreman, the villainous pigs, and the clueless Farmer. Episodes would include three of these vignettes at a time, which used no dialogue but only animal noises and grunting. It was a visual feast in delightful bites, easily digested by preschoolers and grandparents alike.
Could that transfer to a full-length film? The answer, thankfully, is yes. The Shaun the Sheep Movie runs 85 minutes, and is as clever and funny as any of the episodes.
The film opens by highlighting the supposed tedium and dullness of life on the farm. It’s the same thing every day, as highlighted in a quick montage early in the film. When the Farmer shears Shaun, that changes everything, and Shaun decides to “take a day off” by lulling the Farmer to sleep in his trailer so that the sheep can party in the house. When the trailer rolls off into The Big City, Bitzer tries to find him, and the sheep realize that they need and miss the Farmer, too. Shaun goes off into The Big City, only to be followed by the rest of the flock. Can they find Bitzer, the Farmer, and get back to the farm?
It’s quite a delightful adventure, although not without a few somewhat darker moments, especially with the Animal Containment Officer who becomes the film’s main nemesis. The sheep realize just how much they liked their life on the farm, and Shaun realizes that he has put them all in danger for his own selfish purposes. They have to deal with rejection and the life of strays on the street briefly, but it’s never too heavy, and gives way quickly to lighter moments. It’s about courage and love as well as just plain good times.
For the most part, the film has one funny misadventure after another, creative and engaging for viewers of all ages. Even though some of the jokes were slyly intended for the adults, it never talks down to the children. There is nothing objectionable in it, and the scene in the fancy restaurant had us nearly in tears, some of which is seen in the trailer. (The Shaun the Sheep Movie is rated PG for “rude humor,” all of which relates to flatulence, belching, and one scene with the Farmer’s plumber crack; if that is objectionable to viewers, then be warned.)
It’s about just the right length, too. Our six-year-old granddaughter had already had a long day, but the film kept her rapt with attention throughout. We all sang the Shaun the Sheep theme song on the way out of the theater.
Unfortunately, the film does not seem to be doing well in the US. It took six years to make, and it may have outstripped its staying power here. Even though it has only been in release for three weeks in the US, there were not too many showing times in our area. Trust me on this — get your kids or grandkids into the theater to see this while you can.
On the Hot Air scale, The Shaun the Sheep Movie gets a five:
- 5 – Full price ticket
- 4 – Matinee only
- 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
- 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
- 1 – Avoid at all costs
If it’s no longer available in your area, I’d recommend buying the DVD or Blu-Ray. I know we will when it becomes available. As I said on Twitter before going to the theater, I will miss the Shaun the Sheep years with our grandchildren when they both become a little too old for it, but I can still have the happy memories of sharing in its delights with them.