Behold, my pitch for the perfect sheep movie: A Claymation feature focusing on a single sheep that wanders away from a flock of a hundred, and the shepherd of the flock that leaves the ninety-nine to look for that one. Imagine the possibilities of seeing the sheep and the human’s respective times alone, revealing their vulnerability without the other. The story would be a beautiful representation of the one true shepherd, Jesus, as he looks over the flock that is his people, and how dedicated he really is to care for those who wander off. This idea would work far better than Martin Scorsese’s disgraceful The Last Temptation of Christ, would work far better than the classic yet racist Ben-Hur, and would work far better than the overly simplistic A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.
You want something that sustains the themes about God’s redemption of His creation? Watch Chariots of Fire. Want something which does that but is also perfect for tiny little kids? Watch The Prince of Egypt and the direct-to-video follow-up, Joseph: King of Dreams, they’re both healthy films for children to see. Looking back, I regret laughing throughout this movie, as it falls victim to a narrow audience appeal the same way most “Christian” features exist to please other Christians only, alienating those who must hear the Good News. Who is this latest feature from Aardman Animations alienating? Well, just take a look:
Not a single word gets spoken, eliminating any hope of personal connection between the audiences and characters, all of which act like buffoons. The alien of the feature provides some of the only words heard; he calls vehicles “zoom-zoom,” meaning he uses English vocabulary to identify objects based on what a human baby says—not the way an alien would actually behave. Nobody, whether human, animal, or creature, have real interpersonal connection with one another—a mere high-five sets the sole tangible sign of friendship between Shaun the sheep and his new friend. You never learn their favorite hobbies, why they think highly of the other, or why this alien yearns to go home other than, well, parents. Heck, the characters lack so much depth, the faceless background figures are the funniest ones.
Though to be fair, the cute little Claymation process stages the jokes in a way that the longer you analyze a still-frame, the funnier it becomes; you can spot different background details contributing to the humor. One flying saucer reveals itself to be a frisbee, and a UFO reveals itself to be a lamppost, both signs of comic relief from a terrifying sight. The visual gags get denser, though. Sometimes the funniest part is how a woman’s crazy hairdo has a full arc throughout an entire scene, returning once least expected. Sometimes the funniest part is the words on a sign. Sometimes the funniest part is the labels on the grocery store shelves. Sometimes the funniest part is the leaves. Down to the tiniest fingerprint on the background clay puppets, a clever joke always hides in plain sight.
That isn’t to say all the jokes work though, as they still don’t take the plot anywhere in terms of giving any character a sense of change by the end. At one instant, the naïve alien’s sugar rush causes the mother of all burps heard across Africa, in another, he eats a roll of toilet paper. After all these mini episodes, the alien still acts equally as naïve. Shaun likewise just does whatever the situations tell him to, proving his efforts as the film’s straight man *ahem,* sheep, to not help the humor for long. The dog who looks over the flock gets a funny moment in erecting signs against the sheep’s activities, except nothing deeper makes him memorable other than anger against the sheep; a rooster drinking from a mug that says “Keep Calm and Crowing On” is easier to remember than the hound. Of every cartoonish character, only the villain, a woman hoping to capture aliens, expresses a smidgen of motivation, and it’s just because she got mocked as a child for her claim of seeing extra-terrestrial life.
In fact, the title alone, “Farmageddon,” was enough to tell me I should forget about taking this sequel seriously. I guessed correctly: a Wallace and Gromit cameo is prioritized over simple common sense. Now, I know this isn’t meant to make sense, still, the idea obviously copies E.T. where an alien gets stuck on earth, the government plans to capture the creature, the main hero befriends the creature, even the mirroring of actions between alien and boy (sheep) is thrown in. The only real creative liberty is the pizza that replaces the Reese’s Pieces. There’s more mimicry of classic science fiction though, as the tone sounds from Close Encounters of the Third Kind are hidden very clearly. The reference isn’t the problem, but more that this reference can only be spotted by the most elite sci-fi fans, who in that respect are also not the type to watch strict children’s entertainment such as this in the first place.
Now, here’s one more pitch for a sheep movie that would be more worthwhile, and like my last one above, is actually a reality (or at least will be someday). Now, the title for this potential movie will also be called “Farmageddon:”
A huge flock of cute, fluffy white sheep suddenly kick out their inner raging hormones and turn into giant hundred-foot-tall monstrosities which breathe fire onto the whole city. These once innocent, peaceful animals reveal how much revenge they’ve kept inside their soft wool bodies all these centuries! Suddenly they start shouting at the humans, “THIS IS FOR LETTING YOUR DOG BARK AT US!” You don’t believe me that this is real? Just read the Book of Revelation. The mediocre animation of A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon could potentially turn beautiful next to such a screenplay, instead of being a part of something that lacks replay value due to not having a good enough reason to exist.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Hoai-Tran Bui. “‘A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon’ Trailer: Shaun Has a Close Encounter With The Cutest Alien.” Digital image. SlashFilm. Pro Blog Design, 1 Apr 2019. Web. <https://www.slashfilm.com/a-shaun-the-sheep-movie-farmageddon-trailer/>.
Shaun the Sheep. Aardman Animations Ltd. Web. <https://shaunthesheep.com/movie>.