Monday, August 10, 2015

A story of memory loss, alienation, and urban squalor ...

. . . It's Shaun the Sheep! The new feature from Aardman Animations, creators of Wallace and Gromit and Creature Comforts, is also funny, intelligent, and heart-warming, and its soundtrack is good music. All that helps explain why the movie probably won't may not make a lot of money in the United States.

American audiences like cynical, condescending, manipulative, bland, relentlessly age-appropriate fare for their "children's" movies and television, soundtracked with crappy upbeat pop music, or so moviemakers and marketers seem to think. Animation suffers by being lumped in with all that.

The coming attractions before Sean the Sheep at my "local" theater included a prequel to Peter Pan called, if you can believe it, Pan; an Alvin and the Chipmunks movie; a dopey-looking animated feature about a polar bear (because, you know, Arctic and Antarctic setting are hot); and something with Will Ferrell in it. And that is what the movie industry thinks will appeal to people who also like Aardman's intelligent and entertaining productions. Has the industry's brains been so rotted by the Disney Channel and Saturday morning cartoons that it thinks animation is for kids?

Back to Shaun the Sheep. The story includes everything I mentioned in this post's title, and the movie's one crappy upbeat pop song is put to clever narrative use twice, once in a barbershop-quartet version much superior to the original. Oh, and did I mention that Shaun the Sheep is, like M. Hulot's Holiday, wordless, though by no means silent, and that its one fart joke is pretty clever? 

© Peter Rozovsky 2015

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14 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

Hmm. I thought Aardman had done pretty well here. Maybe it's just there hasn't been much from them over here for awhile.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to it.

August 10, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You're probably right, but I was just so depressed by the drek I had to sit through before the movie started. I also found an article from Forbes about the current week's box office receipts that said Shaun the Sheep had not done that well its first weekend, and suggested it might not be the Take=your-kids-from-summer-camp-to-see-the-movie day. (It's was pretty revolting, slangy, jargon-ridden, self-fulfilling piece.)

A review form Forbes praised the movie highly, however, so maybe I am too pessimistic. The movie is great fun.

August 10, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well, you're right that it probably won't make as much money as Pixar. But I feel pretty sure that people who want to see a family movie will find it over the long run. I think my original introduction to Wallace and Grommit may have been through my niece and nephew when they were still very young, but they are not just for kids and I think however people find out about the work of this creative group they will love them. I think it's a little like the Studio Ghibli movies' reception here. Slow but sure.

August 10, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, people who want a family movie may well find it. But you know as well as I do that Aardman's productions are not just for kids. The show I saw began at 9:35 on a Sunday night, and believe me, there were no kids in the theater. But the lineup of previews that preceded the movie suggested that it being marketed to kids only.

I should follow your lead and accept the possibility that a movie or anything else could take time to find its audience. Otherwise I'm just being sucked in by the hype and the neurotic and harmful lust for instant gratification that I pretend to deplore.

August 10, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I should mention that Bristol, England, home of the Crimefest convention, is also home to Aardman's studios. To my (pleasant) surprise, the company does not take massive advantage of this--no studio tours or gift shops, for example. But I do enjoy seeing posters of Wallace and Gromit at the airport or in the windows of the science museum across the street from the hotel where I have stayed the five years I've been to the festival.

August 10, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Yes, I just looked at some Forbes article if not the same one:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/scottmendelson/2015/08/09/box-office-the-gift-nabs-12m-ricki-and-the-flash-and-shaun-the-sheep-falter/

Although they say that Shaun the Sheep "falters", what they mean is that Lionsgate needed to make 15 million dollars to break even, and have made 57 million overseas even before it hit the U.S.

It's a funny old world.

August 11, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Cripes, I am a sucker for the hype, a one percenter at heart if not in the wallet, a sponge soaking up the rank secretions of the entertainment-industrial complex.

Nice to know the makers of Shaun the Sheep have almost quadrupled their investment.

August 11, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

If you can actually soak up some of those rank secretions, more power to you. I seem only to contribute to the one percent's power base, though of course in a minute sort of way.

August 11, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

As do I, I'm afraid, though I try to do less than my share.

August 11, 2015  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

In the UK its a little bit different. Aardman like the Disney Corporation or Budweiser can do no wrong. Like Johnny Rotten or Helen Mirren theyre national treasures...so if you dare to whisper that the later Wallace and Gromit films are - gasp - a bit long or a bit twee you get shouted down by the critics AND the masses for being some kind of vulgar foreigner who doesnt appreciate British humour and culture.

I dont know if I can trust your review, I'm not going to say that you've drunken the Kool Aid (I wonder how many people under 25 actually understand where that ref comes from) but I will say that I thought Curse of the Were Rabbit was a bit dull compared to Wrong Trousers and A Grand Day Out...

August 11, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, Wallace and Gromit have been plastered on the walls of the arrivals hall at Bristol Airport, so your comment about Aardman's status in the UK is not entirely a shock to me.

I agree that ... Were Rabbit is not up to the standards of the W&G shorts (though I liked the brassica joke). I also was not thrilled with the one Shaun the Sheep short I had seen before the movie. But even Second Division Aardman animation is better, funnier, more inventive, and more intelligent than most of its commercial Premier League counterparts in America.

August 11, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

P.S. "Drink the Kool-Aid" still has residual currency in America. I suspect some of its users do not know its origin.

P.P.S. I was not comparing Shaun the Sheep to The Wrong Trousers, A Grand Day Out, or Creature Comforts, I was comparing it to Will Ferrell and Alvin and the Chipmunk.

August 11, 2015  
Blogger seana graham said...

Yeah, the shorts were better than the long one, but it was still fun to watch.

The original Alvin and the Chipmunks were pretty adobable, though. I never saw the modern version.

August 11, 2015  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

The originals were cute, yes. The new "Alvin" preview suggests loud music, crappy jokes, animation that's hard to look at.

I've liked Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep better than ... Were Rabbit, but I liked all three. Some of the shorts have a bit of the anarchic fun of classic Warner Bros. cartoons, which gives them a bit of an edge, the feature-length movies are pretty damn good. If Were Rab it is the worst of the unch, it still gets three stars.

August 11, 2015  

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