The beloved characters of Aardman Animations’ Wallace & Gromit have captured the hearts of its audiences for years, and it’s no different with their mischievous Shaun the Sheep. In A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, our lovable flock are back in a brand-new sci-fi adventure that delves deeper into their lives on the farm. With the same whimsical humor and stunning hand-crafted stop-motion animation we’ve come to expect from Aardman, it’s another classic that fans are sure to love.
The British show this movie is based on, which itself is a spin-off from a Wallace & Gromit short, is broken up into short 7 minute segments featuring slice-of-life anecdotes about characters on a farm. There’s Shaun, the de facto leader of his flock and perennial rascal to the Farmer, who is mostly oblivious and a perfect victim for the sheep’s stunts. At the Farmer’s side is Blitzer, a loyal anthropomorphic dog who is constantly trying to keep Shaun and his cohorts in line so his master can run the farm efficiently.
Shaun the Sheep is slow by nature. The episodes and movies feature relaxing music amidst relaxing scenery, and move at a relaxed pace. Plus there’s no dialogue. The first movie back in 2015 was simply an expanded version of this basic slice-of-life premise, but relied on audiences’ familiarity with the characters. Fortunately Farmageddon doesn’t have the same prerequisites.
In the town of Mossingham, another local farmer and his dog witness a UFO crashing into the woods and flee when they see an alien walk out. Meanwhile, back on the farm, Shaun and his crew get in trouble as they try to have a barbecue in their barn. Since Blitzer steals their only means for eating actual human food, Shaun sneaks into the house and orders pizza. But when the pizza arrives, the boxes are all empty. Turns out, the alien snuck into the delivery man’s pouch and ate them all.
Shaun discovers the alien, Lu-La, hiding in the barn and the two become fast friends. Lu-La has telekinetic powers and can do exact impersonations of voices she hears. As the two become acquainted, Shaun begins to realize that Lu-La is merely a child on her home planet, and that she accidentally winded up on Earth after she was playing around in her parents’ spaceship. To top it off, she can’t remember where she left her spaceship.
Shaun wasn’t the only one to discover Lu-La’s presence – there’s a dangerous organization hunting aliens down, led by the notorious Agent Red. As the two mischief-makers do their best to evade the organization’s capture, hilarity and suspense keep us on the edge of our seats.
About an hour in, the the story achieves all that it sets out to do and we look at our watches wondering how the remaining 30 minutes will get stretched out. Yet, somehow the team behind Farmageddon churn out perhaps the best part of the entire movie in the final act.
The humor is along the lines of what we’ve come to expect with Shaun the Sheep, including the light touches of satire. Maybe the jokes in Farmageddon aren’t quite as plentiful as in the previous movie, but they’re even funnier here. And the film makes up for any lack of rapid-fire gags with a more expansive story.
Farmageddon gives us an even bigger story, one not dependent on character familiarity. But even then, most people new to the Shaun the Sheep universe will no doubt check out the previous film before watching Farmageddon, allowing that one to be the introduction, alleviating this sequel of any pressure and allowing it to focus on the task at hand.
This time around our characters are put in a situation they’ve never really been in before. Sure, the TV show has featured aliens in the past, but on a much smaller scale. Here, the stakes are higher and we get suspense and mystery thrown in as well. Simply put, Farmageddon sets its sights much higher.
Touching on themes of media sensationalism and how it benefits a capitalist mentality, for better or worse, Farmageddon actually has some things to say. But it’s not always so black and white. We also get a better understanding of our villain and what drives her hate – probably an obligatory motive for audiences in this current age of cinematic villain-empathy we’re living in.
The perennially relaxed exposition in A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon makes it easy to check out at times, but the story is ramped up to lock us in early on. Even though we don’t necessarily need it, the film gives us an abridged introduction to our characters and shows us their dynamics without resorting to extended montages. Everything about this latest Shaun the Sheep production is exactly what you’d want from a movie version of this beloved series, and that’s enough for an easy recommendation.
Originally published on February 14, 2020 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/vod-reviews/a-shaun-the-sheep-movie-farmageddon-2020/