Every now and then I hit something which I can’t tear to pieces and which isn’t a masterpiece, and I’m just sitting here like a goldfish, flapping my lips and trying to think of something which is worth saying. Shaun the Sheep is a lovely little movie whose most remarkable achievement is probably coming up with a story to tell after they’d already done something like a couple of hundred seven minute shorts. Just how many stories are there to tell about a mischievous sheep? It’s impressive that they can keep coming up with them no matter what else they do.
The other great achievement is figuring out how to mix wool and plasticine without the plasticine picking up wool fibres like some kind of wool magnet the way it always did when I was seven years old. A lot of the plasticine in my primary school was half hair and carpet by weight and volume. If we’d been a little more modern in our outlook, we’d have called it a fibre reinforced composite, instead of wishing we could just get new plasticine which wasn’t the same colour as our shoes.
What struck me after the fact was that it would make a great double bill with a Minions movie. Shaun the Sheep doesn’t use dialogue; everyone communicates with grunts and expressive noises, and it’s extraordinary how much they can get across without a single intelligible word being spoken. Especially when most of the characters are sheep; there’s only so much you can do to make plasticine sheep distinct characters.
Like most animated movies in our modern age, it’s pitched high and low; the plot and dumb jokes are aimed at the kids, while they sneak in hundreds of sly pop culture references for the people paying for the treat. (A telling moment was when the only advert before the movie was for mortgages; that said a lot about the kind of adult they thought would be in the audience). I’m pretty sure that I missed most of them, and I still spotted Silence of the Lambs, Breaking Bad and at least a couple of Tarantino movies. Parents of five year olds are going to get plenty of chances to catch them all because I can see this thing being stuck in DVD players up and down the country on repeat play for years to come.