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Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep TV series is more cute than clever

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I love Aardman's lovingly handcrafted stop-motion claytoons, but I never had any interest in their TV series Shaun the Sheep, spun out of the Wallace & Gromit short "A Close Shave." I see now that I wasn't really missing anything. The first big-screen outing for Shaun and his barnyard friends is charming in that gloriously detailed Aardman way – down to the airplane contrails in the sky above and the visible fingerprints of the animators in the clay – but it's strictly for the littlest tykes. Its simple story has Shaun, the small flock of which he is the nominal leader, and the drill sergeant of a dog, Bitzer, heading into the Big City to find their Farmer, who has disappeared after a bit of a mishap with a runaway camper van.

Unlike with Aardman's other movies, there's no real dialogue here, just a lot of inarticulate, though expressively emotional, grunting and sighing from the animals, and garbled not-quite-speech from the humans. Justin Fletcher supplies the voice of Shaun, such as it is; John Sparkes does Bitzer and the Farmer.

The humor is almost entirely of the slapstick kind, though the mistaken-identity misadventure the Farmer gets caught up in will be of some mild amusement to the adults in the audience along for the ride. But any Aardman fans hoping for the witty wordplay and social satire of Wallace & Gromit will be disappointed.

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