Reel Reviews

‘Shaun the Sheep’

A-II – adults and adolescents


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Have you any wool?

“Ewe” are bound to have fun watching “Shaun the Sheep Movie” (Lionsgate), an endearing – and pun-filled – animated feature about the madcap adventures of a woolly English flock.

The inventive, stop-action comedy is created by the master clay-crafters at Aardman Animations. They’ve previously given us the “Wallace & Gromit” films as well as 2000’s “Chicken Run.”

Unusually for a full-length title, “Shaun” is dialogue-free. The cuddly sheep baa and bleat; the mindless humans grunt and growl. But no words are spoken.

Remarkably, none is needed for an entertaining movie that, some questionable jokes aside, makes suitable viewing for most of the family.
The eponymous hero (voice of Justin Fletcher) was introduced in the 1995 “Wallace& Gromit” short “A Close Shave” and went on to star in a British TV series of his own that launched in 2007.

Shaun lives with his fellow livestock on Mossy Bottom Farm, where the daily routine is mind-numbingly dull and monotonous. The owner, known simply as “the Farmer” (voice of John Sparkes), suffers from severe myopia and extreme cluelessness. Nonetheless, he runs a tight ship, with his trusty sheepdog Bitzer (also voiced by Sparkes) by his side.

Even sheep deserve a day off now and then, though. So Shaun plots with his flockmates to go rogue after coaxing the Farmer back to sleep (by counting sheep, of course) in his camper-van bed. Sedation successful, the domesticated lambs go wild, watching TV, eating junk food and playing games.

The rollicking good times come to an end when Bitzer gets wind of the high jinks and attempts to restore order. But in his haste to wake the Farmer, Bitzer inadvertently sets the camper in motion. The vehicle rolls down a hill and onto the main road, headed inexorably toward the far-off Big City.
Aghast at the sudden absence of their source of food and shelter, the occupants of the barnyard must rally round and mount a rescue operation.

Shaun and his buddies don disguises as they catch the next bus bound for the urban jungle.

Once there, the real fun begins as the human and sheep worlds collide in such places as “Le Chou Brule,” a stuffy French restaurant whose absurd name means “The Burnt Cabbage.”

Further complicating matters are the Farmer’s amnesia, the result of a blow to the head, and the wicked ways of an animal warden named Trumper (voice of Omid Djalili).

Co-writers and co-directors Mark Burton and Richard Starzak prove themselves adept at clever Chaplinesque sight gags and routines in what is essentially a silent movie. Still, a few audible pleasures are in store, including a tuneful “baa-bershop” quartet.

The film contains some rude bathroom humor and vague innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.


A-III – adults


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‘Pac’ this loser away

All those misspent hours of youth, spending quarters on mindless video games, are finally put to use in "Pixels" (Columbia), a manic comedy about an alien invasion of Earth by 3-D characters from the arcade.

This inane mash-up of "Revenge of the Nerds" and "Wreck-It Ralph" envisions former videoplayers, now grown up, drafted by the government to defeat the enemy at their own games (literally).

The trouble starts in 1982, when NASA sends a probe into outer space, containing samples of human culture. Why include "Pride and Prejudice" when you can send "Pac-Man," you may wonder?

Alien baddies intercept, misinterpret the video games as attack plans, and decide to turn the tables, using monster (and mean-spirited) interpretations of the day-glo characters.

Thirty years later, after Guam is attacked by a swarm of cartoons, U.S. President Will Cooper (Kevin James) must come up with a plan to rescue the planet. Who better to vanquish evil than his boyhood nerdy pals: Sam (Adam Sandler), Ludlow (Josh Gad), and Eddie (Peter Dinklage)?

As kids in the 1980s, this quartet saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the arcade. Now rebranded as the "Arcaders," they face their pixelated friends in real time, with a few modifications.

"Pac-Man's a bad guy?" Sam asks in amazement. And even the cuddly Smurfs are suspect.

Game on, big time, and Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders lay waste to much of London, Washington and New York. The president calls in backup, in the guise of a comely weapons specialist, Violet (Michelle Monaghan).

Smitten, Ludlow tells her, "You smell so nice, like the Book of Genesis," one of the script's many non sequiturs.

Actually, Violet only has eyes for Sam, as he unleashes his inner hero with proclamations like, "We got this! If we don't, the world ends."

Director Chris Columbus, famous for "Home Alone" and two Harry Potter films, juggles an uneasy mix of shtick and schlock. Regrettably, "Pixels" is short on fun and long on tasteless humor, making what should be a wholesome kids' movie questionable for even mature teens.

By the time tennis star Serena Williams and domestic diva Martha Stewart make their appearance, viewers will wish for "Game Over."

The film contains bawdy humor, some sexual innuendo, and a few mild oaths. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

By Joseph McAleer Catholic News Service

Monthly List of Recent Film Ratings (June 2015)

CNS classifications: A-I: general patronage; A-II: adults and adolescents; A-III: adults; L: limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; O: morally offensive.
MPAA ratings: G: general audiences. All ages admitted; PG: parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children; PG-13: parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13; R: restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian; NC-17: no one 17 and under admitted.

The Age of Adaline, A-III (PG-13)
Aloha, A-II (PG-13)
Avengers: Age of Ultron, A-III (PG-13)
The Awakening, A-III (R)
Begin Again, A-III (R)
Chappie, L (R)
Child 44, A-III (R)
Cinderella, A-I (PG)
The D Train, O (R)
Danny Collins, A-III (R)
The Divergent Series: Insurgent, A-III (PG-13)
Do You Believe?, A-II (PG-13)
Dream House, L (PG-13)
The DUFF, A-III (PG-13)
Ex Machina, O (R)
Far from the Madding Crowd, A-II (PG-13)
Focus, L (R)
Furious 7, A-III (PG-13)
Get Hard, O (R)
The Gunman, L (R)
Home, A-I (PG)
Hot Pursuit, A-III (PG-13)
It Follows, O (R)
Jupiter Ascending, A-III (PG-13)
Kingsman: The Secret Service, A-III (R)
The Last Exorcism Part II, L (PG-13)
The Lazarus Effect, A-III (PG-13)
Little Boy, A-II (PG-13)
The Longest Ride, A-III (PG-13)
Mad Max: Fury Road, L (R)
Marie's Story, A-II (not rated)
McFarland, USA, A-II (PG)
Monkey Kingdom, A-I (G)
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, A-I (PG)
Pitch Perfect 2, A-III (PG-13)
Poltergeist, A-III (PG-13)
Project Almanac, A-III (PG-13)
The Pyramid, A-III (R)
Run All Night, L (R)
San Andreas, A-III (PG-13)
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, A-III (PG)
Seventh Son, A-II (PG-13)
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, A-I (PG)
Tomorrowland, A-II (PG)
The Trip to Italy, A-III (not rated)
True Story, A-III (R)
Unfinished Business, O (R)
Unfriended, O (R)
The Water Diviner, A-III (R)
Woman in Gold, A-II (PG-13)

Copyright (c) 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops