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Farmageddon movie review: Stop-motion sheep > CG hedgehog

Enlarge / This promotional image isn't actually in Farmaggedon, but it sums up the mood of the movie.Aardman Animations

Do you like stop-motion animation? I love stop-motion animation. I can't remember a time when I didn't love stop-motion. From King Kong to the California Raisins—put that good stuff straight into my veins.

The current champion of stop-motion is Aardman Animations, which mostly works in a brand of modeling clay called Plasticine that is equal parts cutting-edge and charmingly handmade. I stumbled across an Aardman short called The Wrong Trousers (1993) on PBS in high school, and I was hooked. The film follows a pathologically British inventor named Wallace and his long-suffering dog, Gromit. In Trousers and their other various adventures, Wallace displays a profound lack of proportionality: he builds Rube Goldberg inventions when a butter knife would do, he buys robotic pants to help paint his walls, and he constructs a rocket to go to the Moon when he runs out of cheese. He also lives in a universe where everyone has more teeth than could possibly fit in their mouths.

  • Man the way God intended him to be. Aardman Animations
  • Gromit is a dog. Aardman Animations
  • This is an image from Creature Comforts, a short film that came out 30 years before the movie I'm actually supposed to be writing about. The hardest part about reviewing a movie is not comparing it to every other movie I've ever seen. Aardman Animations
  • If someone asks, "What's the best thing about Chicken Run?" the only correct answer is "The chickens have teeth." Aardman Animations
  • Wallace's love interest in Curse of the Were-Rabbit: be still my beating heart. Aardman Animations
  • The Were-Rabbit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Aardman Animations
  • A real-life replica of the Anti-Pesto van from Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Henry Burrows / Flickr
  • The pirate captain seeks consolation from his beloved parrot in The Pirates! Band of Misfits (UK title: The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists!.) Aardman Animations
  • Behind the scenes on The Pirates! Band of Misfits Aardman Animations
  • Actor Eddie Redmayne voices this little dude in Early Man. Aardman Animations
  • These two are BFFs in Early Man. Aardman Animations
  • So are these two, which is unusual. Aardman Animations

I love Aardman's stuff for two big reasons: I love the way it looks, and I love its worldview. An Aardman production combines near-miraculous feats of stop-motion with characters who mostly have resting "durrr" face. Aardman's clay tears glisten like real water, but since running is a physical impossibility for stop-motion figures, they just walk hilariously fast instead. I love that the chickens in Chicken Run (2000) use their "hands" to cram feed into their mouths even though it would probably have been easier to show them pecking like real birds. The animators went out of their way to be inaccurate. In the universe of Aardman, "charming" trumps "realistic." (Also, Aardman did the 1986 music video for Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer" in conjunction with—holy cow—the Brothers Quay.)

Aardman's view of the world is essentially one large English village, in which most conflicts come from absent-minded eccentrics whose eccentricities get in each other's way. Villains are few and far between, and they only exert the influence they do because the rest of us are too polite or timid to stand up to them. While Aardman short films focus on just a few characters, its features tend to star whole villages of cross-eyed but well-meaning dingbats. If it's not a village, it's a chicken coop or a pirate ship or a band of hunter-gatherers. The filmmakers have boundless affection for their googly-eyed subjects, forgive them their failings, and celebrate their idiosyncrasies. To quote Mozart, "love, love, love, that is the soul of genius."

Compare this outlook to, say, SouthPark, which is forever sneering at the stupidity of people who dare try to make the world better. Aardman says that we're all of us stupid from time to time, so be patient and kind. We're doing the best we can with the neuroses we have.

Dude, werent you supposed be talking about Farmageddon?

And so we come to A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, which is essentially a breezy remake of E.T. This time, instead of a lost alien befriending a human boy, the alien befriends a mischievous sheep named Shaun.

Otherwise, the setup is pure Aardman: a village, a farm, and various eccentrics. The villager who first spots the alien spaceship risks death to salvage his still-cooling French fries; a delivery guy loses his pizza because he's shooing a frog out of the street so that it won't get run over; and a farmer's reaction to First Contact is that it's a way to get a new wheat thresher. (This comes across not as crass materialism but the foible of a man who lives to thresh wheat. And sit around in his underwear.)

  • We first met Shaun in 1995's A Close Shave. Aardman Animations
  • This is what Shaun's been up to since then. Aardman Animations
  • Shaun is always busting this sheepdog's balls. That might only be a metaphor; Farmaggedon is unclear. Aardman Animations
  • They live with the farmer. Aardman Animations
  • Look at his gloriously stupid face. Aardman Animations
  • An alien stole homeboy's fries. Aardman Animations
  • And it steals the farmer's pizza. Aardman Animations
  • Shaun finds the alien hiding in the barn. AardmanRead More – Source

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