When you’re dealing with an award-winning, record-breaking, childhood-defining studio such as Aardman Animations, it’s easy to feel confident about the unlikely prospect of a film that asks sheep to think about aliens and outer space. Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon bolsters the fun of Shaun The Sheep Movie, and expands in a major way. Where the first film saw Shaun and his flock venture to the big city to find their lost farmer, here the tables have turned and a new lost hero crash lands at Mossy Bottom Farm who needs Shaun’s assistance. This new friend is Lu-La, a mischievous tutti-frutti-coloured alien who lands on Earth searching for her way back to a foreign planet. She looks a little different and lives a curious life in our world – with frequently hilarious results. Her homecoming mission intersects with the scheming plans of a covert government UFO organisation, led by the poker-faced Agent Red and her team of Hazmats (faceless operatives in yellow suits) and an (un)helpful robot sidekick MUGG-IN5, who come in search of the crash landed space visitor. They are determined to sabotage the unlikely, but still peaceful, existence between sheep, dogs – and now aliens.
The film boasts the familiar outstanding claymation detail Aardman has come to master, and it visually builds on where Shaun began – the flock’s white fluff sits softly against creamy skies of orange and pink, and Lu-La’s unfamiliar world brings rays of celestial light to this rural world that has now become a brighter, more daring sci-fi spectacular for the whole family to admire.
Mismatched friendships build sturdy foundations when it comes to lovable comedies – and Shaun and Lu-La’s complies perfectly. Theirs is one of utterly foreign but somehow totally comprehensible baas and bleats – bringing to mind the perfect opposites of Wall-E and Eve, Marlin and Dory, Lady and the Tramp. Loyalty and protection are the two key driving forces, as the film’s mission to spread wholesome values of family and friendship speaks loud. However, where other studios may follow a similar template, no one does it quite like Aardman. The beloved British institution’s design is unparalleled, its films lovingly and painstakingly crafted, and the infectious humour needs only a few sounds to resonate across ages and cultures. And they clearly have a love for sci-fi as the film is filled with references to such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, E.T. and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind which eagle-eyed parents will enjoy spotting.
Farmageddon follows triumphs that have won the studio Academy, BAFTA and Annie awards, including recent outings like festive caper Arthur Christmas and caveman comedy Early Man, as well as timeless favourites, such as Chicken Run and the Wallace & Gromit stories.
Shaun and his friends successfully showed just how far a dedication to friendship can get in the first film, and the invitation to consider a wider galaxy makes the values and ambitions of these sheep feel all the more exciting here. By starship or farm plough – however you get there – Shaun’s latest adventure will be waiting to enchant and inspire when it hits cinemas this autumn.