★★★★ - STUFF
- Twenty-five years after playing a bit part in a short, a plasticine ovine is now undoubtedly Aardman Animation's biggest star.
Shaun the Sheep shone out amongst the flock in Wallace and Gromit's 1995 tale A Close Shave, going on to be the subject of a TV series and a hilarious 2015 movie. Now, he and the residents of Mossy Bottom Farm are back in this sci-fi-infused adventure.
Home to HG Wheels Autos, Milliways Supermarket and Forest Fast Foods, the nearby sleepy service town of Mossingham becomes the centre of attention when reports emerge of an alien spacecraft landing in the surrounding woods. Seeking to take advantage of the interest – and hoping it might help him pay for a Wheat Chopper 5000 – Mossy Bottom's farmer decides to set up a UFO theme park, enlisting the services of his dog Bitzer and the sheep. However, what he doesn't realise is that they've already encountered the real thing.
As perhaps expected, the true delights of Aardman's latest effort are in the details. Part of the appeal of Shaun has always been the wordless physical and visual comedy and, here, directors Will Becher and Richard Phelan deliver in spades. Look out for plenty of wordplay, a stunning supermarket set-piece and a beautifully choreographed finale.
While much of the humour is pitched at kids (including, rarely for a big screen outing, preschoolers), there is also plenty for adults – especially those who love sci-fi – to enjoy. There are aural nods to The X-Files, Jeff Wayne's The War of the Worlds and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, a quite brilliant 2001: A Space Odyssey homage, a Doctor Who sighting and robots who were clearly modelled on Short Circuit's No. 5 and Robocop's Ed-209.
Throw in a very visual demonstration of the effects of soft-drinks and a special post end-credit cameo and the result is another magnificent example of the care, attention and sheer craft (you can even see the steam coming off a packet of chips in one scene) that Aardman put into their stop-motion movies.
Perfect school holiday fare that might just inspire your own budding animators.
- James Croot, STUFF
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon opens 09 January at Light House Petone and Pauatahanui