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The Independent Critic

Justin Fletcher, Omid Djalili, John Sparkes, Jack Paulson
Mark Burton, Richard Starzack
Mark Burton, Richard Starzack, Richard Goleszowski
Rated PG
85 Mins.
Relativity Media

 "Shaun the Sheep Screens at Indy Film Fest" 

In advance of its August 5th nationwide release, Aardman Animation's latest feature film, Shaun the Sheep, arrived at Indy Film Fest for a special Cereal Cinema screening at IMA's Toby Theater. Based upon Aardman's popular series of the same name, Shaun the Sheep tells the story of Shaun and his flock of Mossy Bottom Farm sheep as they concoct a plan to get a day off from the rigors of farm life. When their seemingly simple plan goes wildly arrive and leaves their farmer without any memory of life on the farm, Shaun must leave the farm and come up with a rescue plan before farm life fades away.

You're likely most familiar with Aardman Animation from their wildly popular Wallace & Gromit and, to a lesser degree, The Pirates. Shaun the Sheep is a slower-paced, quainter Aardman effort made with the same stop-motion techniques for which Aardman is known yet for the most part making up for in charm what it lacks in spark and over-the-top action.

The U.K.-based Aardman Animation may not be quite the household name in America as is Pixar, but the company has done a slow and steady build since its Oscar-winning animated short Creature Comforts announced its presence here stateside in 1989. More than recent Aardman efforts like Arthur Christmas and The Pirates, Shaun the Sheep looks and feels like a return to the roots of Aardman Animation and, quite specifically, the world of Wallace & Gromit styled animation and storylines.

Even at a mere 85 minutes in length, Shaun the Sheep feels just a tad bit stretched. I'd imagine that there will be some unknowing American children who will push and pull their parents into a Shaun the Sheep screening only to not quite comprehend the absence of decipherable language. In its place, Shaun the Sheep serves up sheepish bleats, mumbles, occasional words that you kind of/sort of think you can understand, and generally a world that exists only within Shaun the Sheep.

Co-written and directed by Mark Burton and Richard Starzak, Shaun the Sheep isn't really constructed to fill the toy bin or so that your kid will beg for some Happy Meal toy but it's actually constructed as a feature-length story based upon the remarkably popular series. In fact, there will be times when you'll be hard-pressed to remember which sheep is Shaun. While the film's prime baddie is easily distinguished, he's a rather legendary animal catcher, Shaun the Sheep is really about the communal experience.

If you've ever been around the creative process when stop-motion is being created, then you know that even the simplest movements aren't actually that simple. It's to the credit of Burton and Starzak that Shaun the Sheep's stop-motion work looks and feels seamless. While it's a different style of animation than is used in most American animated films, anyone who embraces Aardman already knows what to expect and the finished product is stylish, detailed, immersive, immensely fun, and yet another winner for the folks at Aardman.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic