The Plot at a Glance
Shaun the Sheep is an animated movie about Shaun. He's a sheep.
Shaun is getting bored of his meager day-to-day routine on the farm. One day he enlists his fellow farm animals in a convoluted plot to put the farmer to sleep so they can have a day off. Then a series of unexpected maladies happens and the farmer winds up in a runaway caravan that crashes in The Big City, where he loses his memory.
Before long, the farm descends into chaos, so Shaun goes off on a mission to find the farmer, restore his memory, and set things right. Antics ensue.
I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. I hate to word it like that - I'm sure it makes me sound like a dick. But this is an Aardman Animation production, and that always tells me two things:
1) The animation is going to be breathtaking; and
2) There will probably be an obvious "animals are people, too" message that irks me.
I'm pleased to say that #2 above is very muted this time around. There's definitely an undercurrent of it, but rarely does it feel like it's trying to sell you on a PETA membership the way something like Chicken Run does. (For the record, I liked Chicken Run, too. Just can't help but feel I'm being lectured at.)
Shaun the Sheep instead uses the animals-as-humans trope entirely for comedic effect. It's simply adorable and charming. A huge part of that is because the animals do not speak. The film as a whole is largely dialogue-free, which is the smartest thing they did when making it. To put it another way: I don't think you could enjoy the sight gags if the animals were busy telling the farmer, "Please don't milk me today." There's a clear line where anthropomorphism becomes disturbing.
The farmer gets his own time in the spotlight, too, which I appreciate. The scenes of him trying to figure out his identity in The Big City are the funniest parts of the movie. It kind of makes me think of how everybody was so amazed when Pixar made The Incredibles and said, "Oh, look! They can do good movies about people, too!"
In short, I have nothing but good things to say.
My Score: 4.5 / 5
It's a great time.
How Did Lulabelle (22 months old) React?
She loved it. It survived the Minions test, which is this: anytime she wants to watch Minions (which is always) and we put something else on, she will shout, "Noooo!! Minga! Minga!" and wave her arms desperately to get us to change it. The movie/show in question fails when she gives up in a huff and looks for something else to do, like color, and then we turn off the TV because she's engaged in something constructive. It passes the test if and when she stops protesting and sits down to watch.
Shaun the Sheep only took about three minutes to pass. On a scale from 1 to 5 minions, I think that puts this at like a 4.5.
How Did Sonja (4 months old) React?
She liked the colors and music, but mostly she was sleeping.
How Did Stephanie (My Wife) React?
N/A - She did not watch. She was busy using this time as an opportunity to nap.
Any Useful Ethical, Educational, or Thematic Content?
Trying really hard to think of something here, but no, there's nothing really. It's just a fun, simple story.
Trigger Warnings / Egregious Offenses?
It depends. There's a couple of cheap jokes involving the farmer's butt crack, but I wouldn't call that an "offense" so much as a "groaner." There are also some scenes of animals in peril, which I could see setting off some folks who take it too seriously.
But if you ask me - and of course you did, because you read this far - the appropriate answer is, "None."
How Likely Are You to Cry In Front of Your Kids?
Let's go with 50%. It's not too heavy, but there are a few sentimental moments that could set you off if you're not careful. For example, one part involves Shaun and the other sheep trying to cheer up a lamb during a dark moment, and there's an emotional high point when they work together. Animal lovers are at a higher risk since there's both implied animal abuse/neglect and a series of upbeat "all is well now" moments later on.
Here's a litmus test. If you're the type that would cry when a lost puppy is reunited with its owner, then this one will probably get you.
How Likely Are You to Be Annoyed?
I'm going to go with 25%. I don't think it is an annoying film at all, but as I mentioned earlier, it still has a touch of the Aardman animal rights vibe. If you're sensitive to that, you may still get peeved.
The worst part of this would be the film's central antagonist, an animal control technician who loves his job a tad too much. I could see somebody getting annoyed by how much he's vilified. ("What are you pricks whining about?! He's just trying to do his job so that wild boar doesn't gore a small kid!") The film offsets it by making him a complete jerk and (minor spoiler) showing some more humane animal control methods in the end, so if this is a sore area for you, hang in there.
Final Weighted Score: 5 / 5
This is a fantastic adventure movie for kids. It's very clean, very G-rated (even though it was rated PG, I'm guessing because of some cartoonish violence), and bereft of any gross messages / body shaming / consumerism that might screw up your kids.
More importantly, it's a fun movie. The animation is top-notch and the jokes hit home, so you'll actually enjoy watching it. This is the exact kind of movie people talk about when they use the phrase "fun for all ages."