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Listen, what I’m about to say may sound silly and ridiculous, but I think if stop-motion animated features want to be around, they need to stop being in theaters. Let’s face it, the film-going community and the casual audience have failed to keep stop-motion alive in theaters, and while some of the blame should be put on the marketing teams and release strategies, you have to go see these films in theaters for them to make money. If you want to see them in theaters in the future, then you should have made sure Early Man, Missing Link, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Shaun the Sheep Movie, and other stop-motion films that weren’t Coraline made money in theaters, and not just afterward by renting or buying the Blu-ray. That’s why I thought it was smart when Netflix picked up and released Aardman’s recent animated outing, Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon.
Directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan, this is a sequel to the previous Shaun the Sheep film and series, but you can simply watch this film without having seen the first film or the series. It helps that this series is as basic as can be in all of the right ways possible. So, what do I think about the newest Aardman film? Well, let’s find the crop circles in the fields and check it out.
The story revolves around our lovable shenanigans-driven sheep Shaun. After getting into more trouble with the farmer and Bitzer, Shaun encounters an odd new addition to the farm in the form of an alien! This spacey individual landed on the outskirts of the town, and is trying to get back home. That won’t be easy for Shaun, since not only does he have to take care of an alien that’s a child, but the Ministry of Alien Detection, also known as M.A.D, is on the lookout for it as well. Can Shaun help out his new alien friend while also learning to become more responsible?
So, let’s talk about the story as a whole because unlike the previous film, this one is focusing on Shaun himself. The rest of the cast is there, including the other sheep, Bitzer, and the farmer, but until a little later on for Bitzer, everyone else gets relegated to a side story. The main theme and arc for Shaun in this film is for him to be an adult and to take responsibility in life. It’s not a complex theme, but it is something you see throughout the entire film, as Shaun and the alien explore the town and avoid the hands of M.A.D. You can tell that Shaun is characterized more as a teen, while the alien is the kid as you see him try to keep the alien kid out of trouble and to mature throughout the story. Despite there being no dialogue in the film, the chemistry among the characters is relatively strong. I’m sure anyone watching this can relate to Shaun on some level as he acts like a big brother or sibling to the alien. Another step up from the previous film is that the villain is more interesting. Yes, it’s a generic FBI/Area 51 organization, but the leader of the group is way more interesting than the animal control person from the first film. It also helps that her goons and the little robot assistant are also given a lot of personality. Like I said a second ago, there is no spoken dialogue, so you have to rely on the performances of the characters, main and secondary, to give the individual characters personality and life.
Animation-wise, it’s Aardman, and their stop-motion work is always top-notch. It might not reach the impeccable work that Laika does with their stop-motion, but the animators at Aardman are still masters of the craft. Every single character is so easily identifiable in who they are as characters. Even down to the most minor of characters, you can tell who they are by their movements. Like the previous film and the two TV series, the physical comedy and the visual gags are always funny. Sure, this film has some slightly childish humor, but it’s executed well, so it’s not as distracting as the fart joke in Early Man or the juvenile humor seen in Ne-Zha.
My only real complaint is how the film handles the side characters with the farmer and the other sheep. Due to the fact that the story focuses on Shaun, the side story of the farmer wanting to bank on the alien phenomenon isn’t as great. Or, at the very least, it takes a little too long for the payoff to be funny. It feels like a sequel problem that they have all of your favorite characters from the series, but they have nothing to do. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some very funny visual gags with the sheep, but I missed their presence through a lot of the film. It even takes to about the halfway point for Bitzer to have more to do with the main story. I will say that at least the payoff with the side story colliding with the main story is very entertaining, and leads to a much more endearing and enjoyable third act than the first film.
While I don’t think it has the same charm and heart as the first film, I still loved Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon. I wish this had a chance in theaters, but knowing how everyone has turned on stop-motion films in theaters, it’s for the best that it ended up on Netflix. They actually care to have different animated films with varied and creative animation styles. Since we are all under lockdown until further notice, I highly recommend watching this film, and the new Shaun the Sheep series on Netflix, Shaun the Sheep: Adventures from Mossy Bottom. It’s another feather in Aardman’s cap, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Now then, it’s time to play a little catch-up before Trolls: World Tour and The Willoughbys, so let’s check out a film that I have needed to review for a while. Next time, we will be looking at Sword of the Stranger.
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Rating: Go See It!