Films made with children in mind can run the risk of being either patronising or missing the opportunity to combine essential simplicity with the more complex ups and downs of real life.
Those involved with Aardman Animations, however, know exactly how to avoid those traps.
The creators of Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run have turned their attention to the world of Shaun the Sheep and his flock, bringing to it all their established flair for detail, visual jokes for the target audience and rapid-fire subtleties for the accompanying adults.
Shaun and his flock are bored by their everyday routines on the farm and look for the opportunity to foil the farmer and have a day off. A series of mishaps takes them and their unlikely ally, Bitzer the Dog, into the Big City and all that is unfamiliar to them in order to rescue the farmer and get back to their old life on Mossy Bottom Farm. Along the way, they are pursued by the animal containment officer, befriended by other animals in the pound and ejected from a fine restaurant for creating wonderful chaos.
There is no dialogue, but Aardman’s clever use of the vivid soundtrack, as well as the sounds made by the characters, provide meaning enough to convey clearly what is happening, and the young audience can easily follow the action. Comedy, fear, suspense and joy are all there, and there is rarely the chance for the children’s attention to wander.
As an adult, the film reminds you about the importance of valuing what you have and the people around you. Children will enjoy the characters and the slapstick elements of humour that always appeal – they may also recognise the feelings of friendship, loyalty and affection that are bound up in the story, but if not they will just enjoy the ups and downs of a lively and action-packed tale.
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