If only Aardman Animation (Wallace & Gromit) could bottle the ineffable quality that allows them to make fart jokes play as charming rather than pandering. The studio’s Plasticine creations come alive again in a tale that finds Shaun leading his flock in an attempt to break the dull routine of their farm days, unfortunately resulting in their farmer/owner being lost in the Big City with amnesia. Not a single discernible word is spoken in the film—the humans’ grunted syllables are clear from context—leading to a story that relies on the great visual gags of vintage silent comedy; aside from a subplot built around a viral photo, the story could easily take place any time in the last century. Neither Shaun, his dog pal Bitzer nor any of the menagerie is as singular a character as Gromit, and the animal-control officer antagonist is a bit too reminiscent of the third Madagascar movie. But most objections get washed in a way in a creation that’s a joyous mix of simple family-friendly narrative and a no-nonsense duck being paid off for his part in a scheme with slices of bread.
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