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The Best Movie in Theatres May Be the One You Haven’t Heard Of

               By now we’ve all heard how the attempt to reboot a superhero series that was pretty bad to begin with, has failed so spectacularly no amount of black magic can revive it. So besides Fant4stic, what else is playing this week? Ricki and the Flash may be decent but I’m still recovering from the last time I heard Meryl Streep sing. How about that British animated movie that’s surprisingly playing in North America?
                Shaun the Sheep: The Movie is based on the British series of the same name, and like that series is from Aardman animation. I’m a fan of the studio, most famous for its stop motion like Wallace & Gromit and Chicken Run. But it’s also turned out some really great CG animated films like Flushed Away and Arthur Christmas. This film was of the former technique and you can really tell. The stop-motion lends itself very well to the tone of the film and as always shows immense effort and makes the whole story look real. The film also looks like it accurately represents the TV show which I never watched, but I can get a feel for its simplistic style.
                The story is about Shaun a clever troublemaking sheep on a farm somewhere in northern England. Sick of routine, he and the other sheep trick their farmer into falling asleep so they can have free range of the farm. Through a series of shenanigans the farmer winds up in the Big City. Shaun, Bitzer the sheepdog, and the other sheep embark on a trek into the City to recover the farmer who’s having a few adventures of his own.
                One interesting thing about this film is that it has no dialogue. Very much like Mr. Bean and a number of other Claymation shorts, there is some garbled gibberish, but nothing resembling words. This allows not only for the film to be accessible in any market, but also for pure action and expression to move the story along. And the film does that very well for the most part. There are some slow sections and at times the lack of dialogue seems like a crutch making me feel they weren’t taking advantage of opportunities as much as they could have. The film is also structured like a TV show in its use of an A and B-plot. We’re following the farm animals along for most of it, but we also see the farmer’s pretty bizarre experience in the city. The story is predictable at times and there’s a subplot with a villainous animal catcher who’s entertaining to watch, but only really comes together in the final act where we get a lot of heightened energy and laughs.
                The movie is funny in that terrific clever British way. The best jokes are spaced out pretty evenly and while a few bomb, others soar pretty well with their ingenuity. The physical gags are great and there are some unexpected pop culture references from the likes of Taxi Driver to Weekend at Bernie’s! The film also gets some mileage out of the cuteness factor for one of its characters, which I’m still surprised Aardman was able to convey.
                Shaun the Sheep may be the least of Aardman’s features but it’s still a very entertaining and highly under-endorsed film! It’s got charming animation, some good humour, and even some tenderness and a subtle moral about not taking things for granted. Which is far better for kids and adults than a video game movie rip-off of a Futurama episode.

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