The only type of film I’m feeling up for right now is one that’s the equivalent of homemade comfort food. I think stop-motion animation is the closest we can get to a film reaching through the screen, gently patting us on the back, and telling us everything is going to to be okay. Did this week’s film live up to our admittedly rather high expectations of being comforted with endless bowls of mac and cheese?
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
The lives of Shaun the Sheep and company are disrupted when an alien crash lands near their farm.
It’s a dark and stormy night in the countryside, meaning the timing is perfect for the sudden appearance of…aliens? A UFO lands in the forest, and the only witnesses are a rather hysterical man and his dog. In other words, did it really land at all?
For the residents of Mossy Bottom Farm, the UFO may as well be lightyears away, as their routine continues as usual. Shaun and his sheep friends, bored with their lives of essentially standing around chewing grass, cause all manner of mayhem as sheepdog Bitzer tries to keep them in line.
After finally taking things too far and ordering pizzas for the sheep, Shaun ends up puzzled when the pizza boxes arrive empty. He follows a trail of crusts to the barn and encounters an alien who evidently really enjoys pizza. The alien, Lu-La, has a gift for imitation and a knack for getting into trouble matched only by Shaun’s. Though Shaun tries to keep Lu-La’s existence a secret, the task is next to impossible when the alien takes the tractor out for a joyride.
While skeptical of the local UFO sighting, the Farmer sees the crop circle pattern mysteriously left behind and is inspired. Deciding to cash in on the alien hysteria, the Farmer plans a space-themed park…which he naturally puts Bitzer and the sheep in charge of constructing.
Meanwhile, Shaun has disappeared with Lu-La in an attempt to reunite her with the UFO she crash-landed. Apparently Lu-La’s fondness for driving dangerously got her into trouble in the first place, as she hopes to return to her parents after borrowing their UFO for an impulsive ride around the galaxy. Mayhem ensues when they are sidetracked by adventures in a grocery store and a mysterious agency investigates the possibility of alien life on Earth.
Just as Shaun and Lu-La locate the UFO, Bitzer arrives on the scene, followed shortly by the agency, the Ministry of Alien Detection (MAD). Determined to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life, MAD won’t let Lu-La escape as easily as she might like.
After a serious UFO crash, will Lu-La be able to return to her parents and home planet?
3/5 Pink Panther Heads
I’m not going to lie, I absolutely adored the first Shaun the Sheep film and was hoping for a repeat of the wild, inventive humor here. In the first film, Shaun’s antics lead the Farmer to develop a severe case of amnesia and gain fame as an iconic hair stylist to the stars. Even with aliens thrown into the mix in the sequel, the plot doesn’t maintain the same level of absurdity and fun. Most importantly, I wasn’t rooting for the characters to pull off their unlikely schemes in the way I did in round one.
Also, there was only a very brief bit where the sheep pretended to be people. In the first film, the extended scene where the sheep acted like humans dining in a restaurant legitimately cracked me up.
The plot feels very disjointed, in large part because the characters don’t share a goal for most of the film. Part of the charm of Shaun is that he constantly screws things up, yet the sheep (and eventually Bitzer) always have his back, working together to make things right. The other problem is Lu-La as the sower of chaos here, who I’m just not as invested in as Shaun. What would be a silly antic from Shaun is just irritating from Lu-La, even when we learn that her childish behavior comes from being an actual child.
I will give credit here for the animation. Like all things from Aardman, the accomplishment of telling a complete story with almost no dialogue is impressive. The expressions on the sheep’s faces, and long-suffering Bitzer, are particularly endearing.
And let’s not forget the alien theme park, though less than thrilling to visitors, was constructed by an all-sheep construction crew with a dog as foreman. That concept in and of itself could be a major hipster tourist attraction.