If only Aardman Animation (Wallace & Gromit) could bottle the ineffable quality that allows them to make fart jokes play as charming rather than pandering. The studio’s Plasticine creations come alive again in a tale that finds Shaun leading his flock in an attempt to break the dull routine of their farm days, unfortunately resulting in their farmer/owner being lost in the Big City with amnesia. Not a single discernible word is spoken in the film—the humans’ grunted syllables are clear from context—leading to a story that relies on the great visual gags of vintage silent comedy; aside from a subplot built around a viral photo, the story could easily take place any time in the last century. Neither Shaun, his dog pal Bitzer nor any of the menagerie is as singular a character as Gromit, and the animal-control officer antagonist is a bit too reminiscent of the third Madagascar movie. But most objections get washed in a way in a creation that’s a joyous mix of simple family-friendly narrative and a no-nonsense duck being paid off for his part in a scheme with slices of bread.
Director: Mark Burton and Richard Starzak
Producer: Julie Lockhart, Paul Kewley, Peter Lord, Nick Park, David Sproxton, Olivier Courson and Ronald Halpern
Cast: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Omid Djalili, Richard Webber, Kate Harbour, Tim Hands, Andy Nyman, Simon Greenall, Emma Tate, Jack Paulson, Sean Connolly, Henry Burton, Dhimant Vyas, Sophie Laughton, Nia James and Nick Park