StudioCanal

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015, Mark Burton and Richard Starzak)

Shaun the Sheep Movie runs just under ninety minutes. There’s a lot impressive about the film (not least being writer-directors Burton and Starzak never using dialogue, just vocal inferences), but the second half moves at a startlingly great pace. Shaun is the finest physical comedy in years, with the directors figuring in not just inventive plot developments, but perfectly timed jokes. Given it’s stop motion, the timing doubly has to be perfect.

The story has Shaun (the titular Sheep) having to go to the big city to rescue his farmer, who’s ended up in the big city due to Shaun’s shenanigans. The style of Shaun–it’s a spin-off of Wallace and Gromit–allows for some great suspensions of disbelief, the easiest being the evil animal control guy falling for a sheep in lady clothes and the most difficult being Shaun and company being able to read.

Or vice versa. That mileage may vary, but there’s never much time spent on that disbelief because the animators capture perfect human moments. Often in animals.

The first half is a little bumpy and has a couple too on the nose music montages, but the montages always recover.

It’s beautifully made–great photography from Charles Copping and Dave Alex Riddett, great editing from Sim Evan-Jones. And the Aardman animators, no surprise, do a fantastic job on the stop motion.

Shaun the Sheep Movie is simultaneously precious, small, outlandish and rambunctious. Burton and Starzak deliver a rather special, rather spectacular motion picture.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Written and directed by Mark Burton and Richard Starzak; directors of photography, Charles Copping and Dave Alex Riddett; edited by Sim Evan-Jones; music by Ilan Eshkeri; production designer, Matt Perry; produced by Julie Lockhart and Paul Kewley; released by StudioCanal.

Starring Justin Fletcher (Shaun / Timmy), John Sparkes (The Farmer / Bitzer), Omid Djalili (Trumper), Richard Webber (Shirley), Kate Harbour (Timmy’s Mum / Meryl), Tim Hands (Slip), Andy Nyman (Nuts), Simon Greenall (Twins) and Emma Tate (Hazel).


Tales of the Night (2011, Michel Ocelot)

Tales of the Night is a visual masterpiece. It’s computer generated silhouette animation, usually two dimensional (though director Ocelot does branch occasionally into the third), about what seems to be a futuristic theatre company. Late one night, two young actors (and costume designers and writers) and the guy who seems to be their director, sit and adapt a bunch of fables and folk tales for the stage.

Except the stage is never clear-the viewer just sees these adaptations as part of the film; one of Night‘s major failings is the lack of emphasis on the actors. Its other major failing is related-the female actor invariably takes the backseat. Even when she protests she hates a role… she has to do it. Even when she says this role will be her strongest, it’s not. The boy-in the fable-is always the hero.

Ocelot keeps misses his chance to do something interesting with a female protagonist in a fable; by the last one, it’s more annoying than disappointing.

The fables involve a werewolf in Burgundy, an African one, a Caribbean one featuring the afterlife (sort of), a Tibetan one, one about the Aztecs (or Mayans). The final one is just a standard fairy tale. I may have forgotten one, but I don’t think so.

The African one might be the best, though the Caribbean one is hilarious. They’re all often touching. The stumbling starts with the last two.

Still, Ocelot makes a magnificent film. Shame about his gender issues.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Michel Ocelot; edited by Patrick Ducreut; music by Christian Maire; released by StudioCanal.

Starring Julien Beramis (Boy), Marine Griset (Girl) and Yves Barsacq (Théo).


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