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A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Bristol-based Aardman Animation looks to the stars and the twinkling constellation of Steven Spielberg's 1982 blockbuster E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial for a second breathlessly paced stop-motion adventure in the company of mischievous sheep Shaun and his flock. Co-directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan, A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon takes one giant leap for lambkind by introducing a rainbow-coloured alien to the tranquil surroundings of Mossingham. Denizens of Mossy Bottom Farm including the naughty pigs and rooster (the clucking image of Rocky from Chicken Run) remain in the background of Jon Brown and Mark Burton's script. Instead, gentle family-friendly humour arises from the clashing cultures of the eponymous ruminant and a stranded otherworldly visitor, who mimics the bleats, whoops and oinks of the wild. The sequel is lighter on visual gags - a local supermarket stocks jars of Roswell's jam and signage for H.G. Wheels Autos is a cute nod to The War Of The Worlds - but action set pieces are orchestrated with brio. Animators' fingerprints are occasionally visible in the colourful clay protagonists - an Aardman trademark - reminding us of the countless hours of painstaking attention to detail crammed into every frame. Shaun (Justin Fletcher) and his farmyard buddies clash with Bitzer the sheepdog (John Sparkes), who wants to restrict fun in the absence of Farmer John (Chris Morrell). While the master is lost in fanciful daydreams of purchasing a new combine harvester, Shaun and the flock drive Bitzer to the brink of barking madness by firing sheep out of a giant cannon. Late one night, an alien spaceship descends on Mossingham and a cute creature called Lu-La (Amalia Vitale) finds its way - via a pizza delivery cyclist - to the farm. Shaun stumbles upon Lu-La in a barn and befriends the extra-terrestrial with slices of leftover pizza. The plucky sheep vows to help the stricken extra-terrestrial return to her hidden spaceship and send a distress signal into outer space. Unfortunately, Agent Red (Kate Harbour) and her team of operatives in bright yellow hazmat suits are on Lu-La's trail and they intend to capture the alien. A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon is an entertaining sequel, which replicates the emotional heartbeats of Spielberg's 1981 film, underscored with earthy humour and lively musical interludes. Agent Red is a non-descript antagonist, devoid of personality or a back story, and there's never a moment in the film when Shaun, Lu-La and the gang find themselves in nail- or hoof-biting peril. The 87-minute running time won't test the attention spans of the target young audience and co-directors Becher and Phelan sustain a bright and breezy tone. Prepare for a charming close encounter of the furred, fleeced and feathered kind.