A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (U)**

Directors: Will Becher, Richard Phelan

Stars: Justin Fletcher, John Sparkes, Amalia Vitale

Runtime: 87 minutes

The great British animation house Aardman has been delighting us for decades with their

stop-motion adventures featuring Wallace and Gromit and other beloved characters, but they seem to have run aground recently after the tepid Early Man and now this extremely underwhelming follow up to 2015’s Shaun the Sheep Movie.

Played out more or less as a silent film, a low-rent riff on ET sees wily sheep Shaun (Fletcher) caught up in a space adventure after a lost alien crashes near the farm. Meanwhile the Farmer sees an opportunity to cash in by putting on a

space-themed festival – Farmageddon – as Shaun and the alien try to stay a step ahead of the pursuing authorities.

Positives-wise, let’s not forget this is all created by people moulding bits of Plasticine with their hands for days and weeks and months on end. The facial expressions that are necessary to tell the story and get the required emotions and intent across truly marks it out as the work of great artists. It’s just a shame such artistry hasn’t gone into the script, because Farmageddon is lacking in most other ways. It’s very much aimed at young children and, as such, the level of narrative sophistication is not what you would get from a Pixar or a Laika, makers of such stop-motion hits as Kubo and the Two Strings. Jokes for parents include nods to Charlie Chaplin, 2001 and many more, but simply referencing something familiar doesn’t really count as satire.

Also absent is that trademark Aardman big finish, where something breakneck and wildly inventive showcases the brilliance of both the animation and the storytelling, such as Gromit laying out a train track in front of himself. What it all adds to up isn’t much more than a disposable piece of silliness that favours a non-stop parade of sight gags over pretty much anything else.

It’s daft and throwaway rather than clever and funny, and unfortunately a real comedown following the utterly charming first Shaun movie. Tots shouldn’t find any reason to complain, especially if they are already Shaun devotees, but parents and Aardman fans had better set themselves up for a disappointment.