A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, 2019.
Directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan.
Featuring the voice talents of Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Amalia Vitale, Andy Nyman and Joe Sugg.
An alien arrives on Shaun’s farm, sparking a frantic quest to get the visitor home safely.
It’s impossible not to be charmed by the big-hearted Britishness of Aardman Animation. From the delightful world of Wallace and Gromit through to the underrated joy of The Pirates! in an Adventure With Scientists, the stop-motion maestros consistently deliver on the big screen. Their latest outing is sequel A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, which gives a sci-fi spin to the studio’s ovine silent comedy star. It’s a hugely satisfying tale that’s very wholesome, very British and very funny.
Shaun, with his bleats and noises once again provided by kiddie TV icon Justin Fletcher aka Mr Tumble, and his buddies are living it up on the farm. Sheep dog Bitzer (John Sparkes) is trying his best to maintain order, instituting more fun-stifling rules than even Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter. That all becomes small potatoes, though, when alien Lu-La (Amalia Vitale) shows up, with no idea how to get home. Soon, shady government types are after Shaun’s new friend, while the farm’s owner is trying to set up the theme park of the title in order to take advantage of the interest in alien visitors.
Much like its 2015 predecessor, Farmageddon is essentially just a 90-minute barrage of enjoyable slapstick and exquisitely crafted sight gags. Directing duo Will Becher and Richard Phelan, making their debuts behind the camera, keep the energy high throughout and never let the pace drop beyond the sort of chaotic madness that delivers constant laughs. Shaun remains a masterful silent comic creation and Lu-La’s array of expressive noises ensures she is an immediately memorable addition to this lovable ensemble.
This is also an incredibly cine-literate movie that balances the kid-friendly slapstick – enjoy the best glue-based set piece since American Pie 2 – with some delightfully reverent nods to film and TV of the past. The obvious sci-fi touchstones of 2001 and E.T. get explicit visual nods, but there’s also a top quality Jaws joke and a gag involving a Tom Baker scarf and a portaloo that can only be described as being coloured TARDIS blue. The movie flies past at such a pace that it’s essentially a joke buffet. You might not understand what’s being presented on every plate, but there’s plenty of everything else that you won’t go hungry.
As we’ve come to expect from an Aardman production, Farmageddon is baked through with love and affection for the animation craft, but there’s also evident love for the United Kingdom as well. Many of the cultural references are steadfastly British, from the alien’s love for fish and chips through to a rooster – who, incidentally, looks a lot like Rocky from Chicken Run – dunking a biscuit in a cup of tea. There’s even a perfectly crafted gag about sorting rubbish into various recycling bins. At a time when national pride is often difficult to come by, it’s so refreshing to see a movie that reflects the absolute best elements of this side of the Atlantic.
In the midst of a golden age for family movies, from the wholesome perfection of Paddington through to the surprisingly solid Disney live-action remakes and Pixar’s continued charge, Farmageddon stands out as a wildly enjoyable addition to that canon. It’s not shooting for thematic complexity and it makes no effort to hide its love of the lowest common denominator, but none of that holds it back. This does the simple things, but it does them with such wit, such craft and such big-hearted joy that it’s impossible not to love every deliciously silly moment.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.