Maybe one day Shaun the Sheep will open his mouth and, like a fluffy West County Garbo, words will pour forth. But you’d hope not. In this cheerful big-screen sequel, Aardman’s charming and stupendously popular ruminant again gets by on a steady stream of bleats, squeaks and rubbery facial expressions. The result is another great showcase for the animation house’s powers of non-verbal storytelling that’s a giddy delight for kids, and just witty and knowing enough for grown-ups.
As the title’s Michael Bay pun suggests, this briskly paced and furiously fun sequel comes with a sci-fi-tinge. It broadens out the film references in the same way ‘Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit’ did for horror, bunging in a tonne of Easter eggs for Spielberg, ‘Men in Black’ and ‘X-Files’ fans to scour the screen for. One visual gag involving a piece of toast resembling the monolith from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is classic Aardman.
The plot plays a bit like ‘ET’ with Shaun in the Elliott role. It’s simple stuff: a super-powered young alien called Lu-La lands near Mossy Bottom Farm and the easily-distracted flock take it upon themselves to get her home again. Added to the mix are nasty government types and Bitzer, the farm’s dutiful but dim hound, who is inevitably several steps behind the action.
It’s really all just a cue for high jinks involving combine harvesters and Aardman’s first trip into outer space. As you’d expect, there are plenty of lovably groan-worthy science-fiction puns – the town’s garage is called ‘HG Wheels’ – and some very British callbacks. Doctor Who cameos (though perhaps not the one you’d expect), and there’s a couple of bystander snails who look a lot like they’ve crawled out of ‘Creature Comforts’.
It all skews a little younger than ‘Wallace and Gromit’, with the action sequences a bit more slapstick-heavy and the odd pop banger thrown in. If I’m picking holes, the neon-blue, gumdrop-shaped Lu-La looks more like a DreamWorks Animation character than an Aardman creation, but she’s still a pretty lovable route to get Shaun into the universe. The result is one giant leap for lamb kind.