Family Movie Review: Shaun the Sheep Movie (PG)

ShaunTheSheepMovie ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReviewKernel Rating (out of 5): whole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalwhole popcorn kernalhalf popcorn kernal

MPAA Rating: PG        Length: 85 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 6+. Mostly bathroom humor: a farmer's pants ride a little too low in the back, revealing some butt, and five or six different fart, manure, and other butt-related jokes. Also there is a recurring gag where when a dog sees a bone, sensual music plays and he can't contain his behavior; also a kiss between a human and a sheep.

'Shaun the Sheep Movie' may be this summer's least-complicated children's film, but it's a simple, streamlined narrative that works—funny and emotional in equal measure.

By Roxana Hadadi

Few children's films are aimed really and truly at children anymore. But "Shaun the Sheep Movie," with its straightforward storyline, lack of dialogue, and focus on animation and sight gags, is a good one for young viewers. It's amusing but also affecting, and should work for children of practically all ages.

The film is from the British animation studio who also created "Wallace and Gromit," and the character Shaun is the focus of an animated show in the UK, but that's not to say the plot will be inaccessible to American audiences. There's a subplot here that is aimed to older viewers like parents or guardians—what do we do when our job doesn't seem to fulfill us anymore, and our responsibilities become overwhelming?—but the majority of the film itself deals with how others, in this case Shaun the sheep and his friends, respond to that quandary.

What to do when someone is letting you down? How do you bring them back up while also providing for yourself? Those are questions to consider after seeing "Shaun the Sheep Movie" and conversations that could be had between families, and for a film that has barely any dialogue, it's an accomplishment that the movie brings up so much.

"Shaun the Sheep Movie" begins on a farm, where many years ago a man settled down with a puppy and a baby sheep and set about living off the land. But years have passed, and the Farmer (voiced by John Sparkes) is aloof and uncaring. He doesn't pay attention to the dog, Bitzer (also voiced by Sparkes) or his favorite sheep, Shaun (voiced by Justin Fletcher), anymore; he just goes through the motions of running the farm every day. He plays with his smartphone when he should be tending to the animals, the farm is in disrepair, and everyone seems miserable.

Frustrated with the status quo, Shaun leads the other sheep into an elaborate scheme to force the Farmer into a nap so they can watch some television and eat some snacks in peace. But things go wrong, and the Farmer ends up locked in a camper that crashes in the Big City.

Taken to the hospital after his accident, the Farmer loses his memory. Simultaneously, he's being tracked by loyal Bitzer and guilt-ridden Shaun, who is soon joined by all the rest of the sheep. The Farmer hasn't been great to them lately, but he's still their responsibility—no matter how much he's disappointed them recently, their bond is deep.

Along the way, the sheep make a threatening enemy from the city's Animal Containment Unit, who has a nearly fanatical obsession with capturing animals. Whether Shaun and Bitzer can find the Farmer, and whether the Farmer will remember who they are, are the main conflicts for the film's short 85-minute runtime.

Because the story is so simple, "Shaun the Sheep Movie" can build out elements in engaging ways. A flashback to when the Farmer was young and cool, wearing aviators while interacting with his puppy and his baby sheep, is beautiful in setting up their dynamic. The antics of the sheep, who dress up like humans in the city and behave increasingly ridiculously, will make children laugh. And the sadness of the animal containment facility, where the film's bad guy kicks over the "Adopt a Stray Day!" sign, raises the film's stakes effectively without going into full catastrophe mode.

Nevertheless, there are some grating things here, like the crudeness of the bathroom humor. And while the film goes for a somewhat traditionally happy ending, it abandons an earlier idea that sees the Farmer embarking on a new career that seems to fulfill him more than working the land. But maybe what "Shaun the Sheep Movie" is doing is prizing togetherness, which is a fine message for children and families to experience. The affection between its characters is what "Shaun the Sheep Movie" wants you to remember, and you will.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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