Expanding smoothly from gently anarchic kiddie tv to gently anarchic kiddie feature (written & directed by Mark Burton & Richard Starzak), SHAUN is also delightful for any grown-up in the room. Retaining a near silent-film format (think Jacques Tati: exaggerated sound effects/gibberish dialogue), the story travels from rural slapstick to urban chaos when a runaway caravan trailer takes The Farmer for a ride, crashing in the big city. Recovering, but now with a case of amnesia, The Farmer no longer recognizes his own sheep or even his loyal dog when they come to his rescue. Anyway, who wants to be rescued when your half-remembered sheep-shearing skills turn you into an instant celebrity hair-stylist? And while the animals are trying to jog his memory, the city’s chief of animal control is busy rounding up stray sheep & dogs. (In the ridiculously difficult world of clay-model stop-motion capture, this villain is an amazing piece of character animation.) Great fun, big laughs, the Aardman folks, doubling down on their split with DreamWorks, hold fast to alternating sly & broad eccentric British humor, as well as in their punishing handcrafted artisan technique. (Check out the Extras to see just how insanely labor-intensive the process is.) And if no single character in this pastoral crew can match the soulful empathy level of Gromit (the pooch with the creased brow in the WALLACE AND GROMIT adventures), the characters make a close race of it.
DOUBLE-BILL: The SHAUN tv series is a bit less polished, a bit more kid-oriented, but none the worse for it.