Shaun the Sheep: Artistic Highlight but Box-Office Disappointment

Too bad that the artistically acclaimed Shaun the Sheep, has not performed well at its opening weekend.

Like the popular BBC animated show (a spinoff from Aardman Animations’ Wallace and Gromit shorts) that inspired it, Shaun the Sheep, the new and wonderful stop-motion feature, has no spoken dialogue.

Instead, it relies on images to tell as zany, slapstick story.  When the free-spirited, precocious Shaun, a dreamer among the sheep of Mossy Bottom Farm, gets bored by the routine of daily farm life, he gets the idea from a bus ad for a vacation.

The animals then put their dim Farmer to sleep, and wreak havoc, making smoothies, watching Westerns, and so on.

The sleeping Farmer’s trailer rolls down a hill towards the Big City, the sheep and their loyal dog Bitzer, are forced to go there in an effort to retrieve their master.  Sadly, Farmer lands in the hospital with head injuries and memory loss.

While being pursued in the city by a dog-catcher, the Farmer becomes a celebrity barber thanks to his motor memory of what to do with an electric shear.

Most of the humorous adventure depicts the chaos, with events spiraling out of control, assisted by remarkable cleverness and considerable visual style, and attention to character details

For example, the dog-catcher is overly pleased by the response he gets after capturing a stray dog, only to realize that the cheers are for a youth and his skateboard.  Later one, there is a nice scene where the animal pretend to be a human who took a liking to him.

There are also emotionally touching scenes, as when some caged animals prepare for “Adoption Day,” hoping that a visitor will take them home.

Though made to please children and very young viewers, Shaun the Sheep boasts a fresh, original, witty tale that should prove winning for adult ones as well.

Lionsgate’s Shaun the Sheep, proved to be a comercial failure, opening Wednesday and earning $4 million this weekend and $5.6 million in its first five days in theaters.

The studio paid about $2 million for the rights along with promotion and advertising costs.

A source close to the studio pegs the break-even point at approximately $15 million, making it a low-risk investment.