I feel like I say it every time I talk about them, but it is always great to see a new Aardman movie. They are one of the few studios still committed to stop motion animation and, after reading the book Aardman: An Epic Journey Taken One Frame at a Time, I have a new appreciation for the brilliance of Aardman. When it came out a few years ago, I raved about Shaun the Sheep Movie and was really excited to see this when it was announced and I have to say that I think it’s even better than the first film.
The film follows Shaun after he discovers that an alien, Lu-La, whose ship crash lands in the town near the farm. Whilst the two have fun together, Shaun decides to help Lu-La get back to her ship so she can go home, however, a sinister Men in Black style agency is after Lu-La so Shaun has to help Lu-La avoid detection with Bitzer, the Farmer’s dog, being dragged along all the time. Meanwhile, the Farmer hopes to use the publicity surrounding the aliens to turn the farm into a cheap tourist trap to make enough money to buy a new combine harvester. Like all the other Shaun the Sheep media, the story is told without any dialogue, using sound effects and the animation to tell the story, with the most dialogue being occasional grunts, this adding to the overall charm of the film. Like the best silent films, everything you need to follow the story is told through gesture, the comedy in this case coming through the exaggeration of the gestures, giving the film a universal appeal. This really works in selling the friendship that forms between Shaun and Lu-La, along with creating some tearjerker moments when we see Lu-La’s backstory. It also works to give a clear character arc for both Shaun and Bitzer, selling a friendship and rivalry between the two, along with giving some depth to the villain of the film, especially at the end of the film.
This being an Aardman film, there are also a ton of little jokes in the background that you’ll probably need to watch the film multiple times to see all of them. In this case, a lot of those jokes are references to classic sci-fi. There are some more obvious ones, like how a lot of the film has a similar plot to ET, along with having music from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Close Encounters, whilst others are a bit more hidden. I saw references to Logan’s Run, Doctor Who (although this one is pretty obvious) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in there and, like how Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit used Bright Eyes in one scene, this film uses Forever Autumn from Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds.
The animation meanwhile is excellent as usual. All of the little touches that identify an Aardman film, such as visible fingerprints on the Plasticine, are well accounted for here. The designs of the new models meanwhile are of the high quality you expect from Aardman, with Lu-La being a really cute alien design, with a lot of fun being shown in the contrast between her design and the other characters, whilst the designs for the Men in Black style agents, with the bright yellow hazmat suits, allowing for a lot of comedy to be generated, especially with background jokes, and there’s some good comedy through a robot the agency has, which has a bit of a Johnny 5/WALL-E look to it, and just seeing the name of the robot made me laugh.
Overall, Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie is an incredibly charming film, which continues to show Aardman as one of the best animation studios around. It is hard to review a film like this as so many of the jokes and a lot of the depth and charm of the film comes through visuals and I don’t want to give away the jokes by telling you what to look for. Like the first film, this shows that silent cinema isn’t dead and how animation can act as a universal medium.
My Rating: 4.5/5