A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

Hidden Gems

A genuinely great sci-fi adventure film that deserves to be held up as one of Aardman’s best.

Emily Senior

Since his first close shave with an evil robotic dog 25 years ago, Shaun the Sheep has enjoyed some wild adventures in his eponymous TV show and in 2015’s 'Shaun the Sheep Movie'. For all their zaniness, these adventures were decidedly earth based, so the decision to bring aliens into the mix didn't seem the most obvious. However, what 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon' provides is a genuinely great sci-fi adventure film that deserves to be held up as one of Aardman’s best. Aardman Animations is undoubtedly a powerhouse - 'The Curse of the Were Rabbit' won an Oscar, and 'Chicken Run' is the highest grossing stop motion picture of all time - yet I feel that Farmageddon has largely been written off as ‘just a kids’ film’. Though true that the Shaun the Sheep TV franchise does skew to a younger audience, (indeed, the 'Timmy Time' spin-off is geared exclusively to toddlers) this film contains enough humour and technical prowess to get the whole family on board.

The film follows Shaun’s attempts to return a small blue alien with glowing ears, Lu-La, to her home planet after she crash lands near his home of Mossy Bottom Farm, all whilst avoiding the attempts of the Ministry of Alien Detection (M.A.D.) to capture their first UFO. Though not the most unique concept, a multitude of subplots utilise the whole cast of characters. The Farmer’s efforts to set up his own ‘Farmageddon’ theme park to capitalise on the village’s interest in aliens never feels like it detracts from the main story line. Indeed, it sets the scene for even more hilarity once its naff attractions open in the final act. Multiple plot twists show you more about Lu-La’s journey to earth as the film progresses, most importantly the reveal that Lu-La is in fact a child. This is a genuinely emotional moment which makes you root even more for their efforts to send a distress signal home. Despite being over 10 times the length of a normal episode of Shaun the Sheep, the film never feels drawn out and remains engaging throughout, showing just how well it is paced.

This is even more impressive since none of the characters, even the humans, have any dialogue. Despite this, Agent Red, the leader of M.A.D. and the film’s villain, has a complete character arc better than some more highbrow films. She chases Lu-La down with all the rage of Mrs Tweedy in 'Chicken Run' and she shows some real menace during the film’s final chase sequence, yet flashbacks show the reason why. Having seen aliens as a child, she became determined to prove their existence after being mocked by her classmates about it. This classroom teasing is a motivation a young audience would clearly understand. This also provides a genuinely sweet moment of redemption in the film’s final moments, as it becomes clear that Red has more links to Lu-La than she’d previously known.

The film’s slapstick sequences make it easy to forget just how slow and painstaking the process of shooting a stop motion animation film is. Highlights include watching a team of sheep construct the theme park, misusing power tools and balancing ladders within wheelbarrows, and then having to build it all over again after the first attempt crumbles before them. A sequence in which Lu-La eats the entire contents of a shop’s pic n’ mix display leads to just as much chaos as you’d expect, as a flying pizza mistaken for a UFO only adds to the alien mania that grips the town. Meanwhile, the attempts of the Farmer’s trusty side-dog, Bitzer, to keep Shaun out of trouble creates a brilliant double act.

It’s also clear that the film was produced with a great level of affection for the sci-fi genre; Paste Movies lists it alongside 'Tenet' and 'Bill and Ted Face the Music' on its list of best science fiction films of 2020. It skews numerous sci-fi tropes, including the ‘secret base’ which is underneath a car wash, and the robotic henchman Mugg-1N5 is more inept than terrifying as it tries to collect evidence of alien life. Visual gags are stellar throughout and reward multiple viewings (I for one hadn’t noticed the M.A.D. agent’s still wearing their yellow hazmat uniform in their holiday photos), but the sci-fi references really shine. Some references kids would grasp, such as Shaun disguising himself as one of Doctor Who’s Daleks to enter the theme park and scaring a Tom Baker lookalike. Others are geared towards adults in the audience, my favourite being that the password to Red’s office is to hum 'The X-Files' theme tune. The attention to detail also means it doesn’t seem that much of a stretch to think the stains left by the pizza Lu-La steals when she arrives at the farm bear a remarkable resemblance to the symbols in 2016’s 'Arrival'. There’s even a cameo from a clay Professor Brian Cox, who, in a post credits scene, is revealed to be working for M.A.D.: he removes his hazmat suit and plays a hit from his 90s band D:Ream on the keyboard (before being unplugged by a disgruntled Timmy). The film’s soundtrack also features Kylie Minogue, making clear that this is a sheep with star power.

Even with these references for adults, it never detracts from being a fun film for kids, truly a movie made for all the family. Though 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon' may not be as celebrated as works that feature Aardman’s two biggest stars, Wallace and Gromit, it is a glorious film. In a very serious world where there are many very serious films on offer, I would thoroughly recommend 'A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon' if you are ever in need of a dose of levity.


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