Aardman is back with another charming children’s romp.
Viewers wary that A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon will take a cue from many past animated family movie sequels and simply regurgitate the plot of its predecessor need not fret. Farmageddon makes it clear from the outset that it’s offering something new by introducing an alien, Lu-La (Amalia Vitale), into the proceedings. This cuddly extra-terrestrial has accidentally stumbled onto the barnyard Shaun (Justin Fletcher) and his flock call home. Shaun and Lu-La immediately bond and these newfound friends begin a mission to return Lu-La to the spacecraft she came to Earth in, all while avoiding government forces who want to capture Lu-La.
The presence of such heavy science-fiction elements may be new but Farmageddon does maintain some of the most widely-acclaimed parts of the first Shaun the Sheep Movie. Chiefly, like all but two feature film titles from Aardman Animation, Farmageddon is told in stop-motion animation while it carries over an affinity for slapstick from its predecessor. The best element Farmageddon has retained from The Shaun the Sheep Movie, though, is a commitment to dialogue-free storytelling. Save for a handful of childlike phrases from Lu-La, Farmageddon is the rare modern movie, animated or otherwise, to hearken back to silent cinema.
Given how many animated kids movies rely on loud and obnoxious dialogue to generate laughs, Farmageddon’s dependence on more subtle means of telling its story and making viewers giggle is a refreshing change of pace. Instead of derivative bathroom humor, Farmageddon finds humor in precise pieces of comic timing as well as oodles of pop culture references to famous science-fiction properties. The best of these emerge in the form of background gags, like an auto-repair shop with the moniker H.G. Wheels or a cereal named after Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Such clever blink-and-you’ll-miss-it gags are scattered throughout Farmageddon’s intricately detailed animation, which blends together tangible textures with endearingly goofy-looking character designs. The animation in Farmageddon also allows Aardman to once again flaunt off their ability to entertainingly homage visual facets of classic movie genres. Just as their 2005 effort The Curse of the Were-Rabbit invoked the moody visuals of early horror fare, Aardman’s Farmageddon, particularly in its first act, nicely makes use of first-person camerawork and large amounts of shadows that echo similar visual elements of science-fiction films of the 1970’s/1980’s.
Farmageddon is the rare modern movie, animated or otherwise, to harken back to silent cinema.
Such bold visual choices kick Farmageddon off on a high note and the best parts of the script by Mark Burton and Jon Brown make similarly daring creative choices, particularly in an early scene where Lu-La uses telepathic levitation and average barnyard objects to explain her predicament to Shaun. That having been said, the more generic third-act of Farmageddon, complete with a predictable backstory for human villain Agent Red (Kate Harbour) and a disposable extended chase scene, could have used more of the laidback audaciousness that marks the best scenes of Farmageddon.
Similarly lackluster is a collection of pop tunes that play over a handful of montage sequences throughout Farmageddon. Not only are the lyrics of these tracks as tepid as they are forgettable. do these songs but they betray the visual-oriented tendencies of the Shaun the Sheep Movies. These tunes could be found in any kids’ movie whereas the best parts of Farmageddon dare to have their own unique flavor or at least a flavor unique to Aardman features. Luckily, enough of Farmageddon adheres to distinctiveness to make it an enjoyable comedy rather than just a rehash of the original Shaun the Sheep Movie.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon offers up shear fun on Netflix now.