Thursday, August 6, 2015

Shaun the Sheep Movie Review

If you know me well enough, you'll know that I have an extreme amount of respect for the stop-motion animation genre. Even in situations where the story of the movie isn't super fantastic, I still find myself enjoying the movie because of the amount of time and effort it takes to make even the smallest scene. Every tiny move requires a completely new shot and thus the final product is mind-blowing. Sadly it seems that the general population doesn't care about these movies. The highest grossing stop-motion animation movie in the U.S. is Chicken Run with just over $100 million. A few others have come close to that, but the majority of these movies make around $30 to $50 million at best. Compare that to a company like Pixar who consistently makes at least $200 million per movie in the U.S. alone. Even the lowest grossing movies from Dreamworks earn more than 90 percent of stop-motion animation movies. It's sad. It's unfair. It's frustrating. These movies deserve to be seen. They deserve type of money that Pixar gets. This is high quality animation. I was looking at projections for this week and predicts that Shaun the Sheep Movie will make less than $10 million in its opening weekend here. Ouch. That's an insult to this genre. At least it was a huge hit over in the U.K. earlier this year where the show originated from. But I am now begging you. Don't be like the rest of this country this weekend. Make the decision to support this movie. It deserves your money.

Now that I have that rant out of the way, let's talk about this movie. For all intents and purposes, Shaun the Sheep Movie is a movie that shouldn't work. It's based off the British TV series Shaun the Sheep, which consists of a whole bunch of 7-minute episodes. Stretching a 7-minute episode into an 85-minute long movie is quite the task by Aardman, especially because neither the TV show or the movie has any dialogue whatsoever. That's right. This movie has no dialogue. All we get is grunts, sighs, and mumbles from the humans and animal noises from the sheep, dogs, cows, ducks, etc. This shouldn't work. It should be a project that stays as a TV show and not a movie. But it does work. Oh does work. And not only does it work, but it's absolutely brilliant. The story is about a flock of sheep, a dog, and their farmer owner. The sheep are really tired of everyday farm life, so they conjure up a plan to get rid of the farmer. They put him to sleep, put him in a trailer, and send the trailer down the road into the city. But then they quickly realize that this was a bad plan and they want the farmer back, so they head into the city to rescue him.

This is quite the brilliant adventure. Right from the beginning, we just take off running and it's a blast the whole time. I was laughing hysterically the whole entire time. In fact, I don't think I've ever had this much fun with a stop-motion animation movie. It's a movie that your kids will have an absolute blast with, but it's also a movie where you will be laughing right along with them, so it works for adults as well. Humor isn't the only thing that this movie has going for it, though. For a movie based off of a bunch of 7-minute TV episodes, the story in this is rather moving and fairly deep. I'm not going to tell you what happens to the sheep once they get to the city, which is where most of our movie occurs, but there's some real tear-jerking moments in this. It's emotional and it's moving. And there's a few intense scenes in the last half of this movie. It's a very well-thought out and well-written movie. All this done without any dialogue, which makes it that much more impressive. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words? That definitely holds true here. Sometimes you don't need words to tell a story. In fact, sometimes the story is better without words. I'm trying to imagine what this movie would've been like if the people or the animals actually talked. It still may have been a good movie, but I don't think it would've been nearly as good.

Finally, I want to talk about what is probably the most important part of this movie. If you haven't gotten the vibe already, the feel of this movie is very much like a silent movie. Silent movies have no dialogue. Occasionally they will hold up a sign, write something down, or show some text on the screen, which is exactly the types of things that this movie does. But what really makes a silent movie the most effective is the music. Watching a movie with absolutely no sound is often pretty boring, but the music playing in the background is what propels the movie forward and that's the case here. They'll often do this clever thing where the music in the movie is actually being played or sung by a character, which is fun, especially when they bounce back and forth between that and the music being the soundtrack of the film only. But like I've just mentioned, this movie has a lot of different emotions and the way they express that is through the music. At one moment, you'll have the characters running around, doing something, and the music will be fast and up-tempo. Then a sad moment will happen. The farmer will feel lost or the sheep will be crying and along with that you'll have sad music to drive home that emotion. Occasionally you'll even get a song with words that will give you a sentence or two about the emotion a certain character is feeling that plays just like a line of dialogue in a silent movie. It works. The music is just perfect.

Overall, based on the reviews that the movie had as well as my personal track record with this genre of animation, I went into this movie expecting it to be a good movie. But even I was surprised at how  amazing this movie was. Like I said, this is a movie that shouldn't work. It's based off of a TV show that consists of 7-minute long episodes with no dialogue. That's hard to translate into an feature-length movie. It's for that very reason that movies based off of video games and board games often fail. But the fact that this doesn't fail is an impressive feat in and of itself. And the fact that it is an amazing movie that's both hilarious, emotional, and moving with an absolutely excellent story that flows perfectly makes it that much more impressive. I like Aardman Animation's films. Chicken Run is great. So is Wallace and Gromit. I consider Arthur Christmas a modern-day Christmas classic. I even enjoyed The Pirates! Band of Misfits. This is a great studio that consistently puts out great films. But I am going to boldly proclaim this as their best movie. It's close, but I will stand by that. Usually there's at least one animated movie that sneaks into my best movies of the year list and right now this movie is right up there with Inside Out as a solid candidate to make that list. As such, I will give Shaun the Sheep Movie the same grade I gave Inside Out: a 9/10.

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