A SHAUN THE SHEEP MOVIE: FARMAGEDDON / CERT: U / DIRECTOR: WILL BECHER, RICHARD PHELAN / SCREENPLAY: JON BROWN, MARK BURTON / STARRING: JUSTIN FLETCHER, JOHN SPARKES, CHRIS MORRELL, KATE HARBOUR / RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 18TH
The name is Sheep - Shaun the Sheep. With a Silver Jubilee for one of Aardman's best-loved characters in 2020, and a box-office of $22m for the first big-screen outing for Shaun, one can suspect that money, rather than sheep, was being counted in the Bristol HQ of Nick Park and co, whose Oscar-winning credentials were guaranteed with their Wallace and Gromit shorts. Co-directed by Richard Phelan and Will Becher, from a script by Mark Burton and Jon Brown, Farmageddon gives Shaun a more epic canvas on which to inhabit.
All roads still lead to Mossy Bottom Farm, Mossingham - and life remains as tranquil and routine for Shaun and his community of farmland friends. His jobsworth sheepdog rival Bitzer (described by the filmmakers as 'Shaun's older brother') is determined to stop Shaun having fun with all manner of deterrents, but the farm combine harvester proves too irresistible. However, there is nothing like an alien popping down from the cosmos to really mess things up - and so it does when an alien ship carrying young Lu-La arrives nearby. No prizes for guessing who the alien connects with first.
An alien visitation would not be the same in movie-land without a good old government agency keen to track Lu-La down, so enter Agent Red and her hazmat-suited goons, who arrive when another local and his dog guide them to the alleged site. However, it is Shaun who has to play Elliott to Lu-La's E.T. and try and get the diminutive alien right back to where it came from.
Referencing Kubrick and space-age Spielberg (with an affectionate nod to the late Terry Nation), Farmageddon proves that in cinema, action does speak a lot louder than words (or in the case of this film, grunts and ho-hums, punctuated with a few galactic-sized burps from Lu-La).
Like that other Aardman fave Gromit (and it was in his world that Shaun made his bit-part debut back in 1995’s A Close Shave), Shaun is a seemingly timid character who is savvy enough to evade the farmer. In this escapade, the farmer is out to make money from the alien craze that’s spreading in the locality by conceived the titular Farmageddon. Shaun, the littlest of heroes, provides much delight and fun in a film that has tremendous crossover for both adults and children alike. Farmageddon happily retains the inventive action of the early classic shorts, and there is more than enough in the frame to hold the attention throughout.
Production design references the likes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and John Williams' legacy from numerous classic films is tracked accurately thanks to Tom Howe's sweepingly diverse score. Make sure you stick through the end credits for a last-minute gag that older UK fans of both science fiction and ‘90s music will get a big kick out of.
Expected Rating: 8 out of 10