Always one of animation’s most grounded and minutiae-oriented studios (even with evil penguins, robo-trousers, and musical monkeys), Aardman seem, on first glance, to be expanding their horizons with their Shaun the Sheep sequel. As far as suggestive titles go, Farmageddon implies a grand, high-stakes adventure, and there are certainly some ambitious excursions to the upper atmosphere and beyond, but this is still a distinctly low-key, British affair. Alien antics mix seamlessly with gags about putting the right bins out and set-pieces in a shabby Morrisons surrogate. Farmageddon is a sweet and funny entry into the Aardman canon, a little more young-child focused than Wallace and Gromit or Chicken Run, but still enjoyable for any parents.
Farmageddon expands Shaun the Sheep’s world when a young alien by the name of Lu-La crashes her spaceship onto his farm. Though the flock is initially wary, Lu-La wins them over and they, with the help of grumpy farmer’s dog Bitzer, set about finding a way to get her home. Meanwhile, a shady but hilariously inept government agency, headed up by an anti-alien meanie not entirely dissimilar from Theresa May, is trying to get Lu-La for their own purposes.
Of course, a happy ending is never in doubt, and the hazmat-suited agents and their scene-stealing robot assistant fail at every possible turn. It’s in how they fail that the fun is had, and there are countless brilliant slapstick scenes packed into a brisk sub-90 minute runtime. With no dialogue to work with – Farmageddon continues its predecessor’s technique of having all communication done in grunts, screams, and giggles – Aardman pack in sight gag after sight gag, and an impressive number of them land. Some of the sci-fi movie homages are a bit tired (and it’s not like an Alien or 2001 reference is going to have six year olds laughing), but generally the meticulously crafted environments and farce scenes will have you grinning like an idiot.
An enormous amount of expression is packed into these Claymation figures, making Shaun’s flock varied and lovable, and Lu-La is ridiculously cute (and bound to be a plush toy favourite for younger viewers). Farmageddon isn’t quite in the very top tier of Aardman releases, but you’d still struggle to find a more fun any-age film this year.