Thursday, 12 December 2019

Close encounters of the herd kind

Close encounters of the herd kind

BACK in the late Sixties, Star Trek challenged us to “seek out new life and new civilisations — to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

Ten years later, a young filmmaker by the name of Steven Spielberg picked up the gauntlet and made Close Encounters of the Third Kind about a man whose life takes on a whole new dimension following an experience with an unidentified flying object.

At some point, Spielberg must have asked himself what would have happened if it was a child rather than an adult that had the encounter in question.

The result, in 1982, was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which overtook Star Wars to become the then highest grossing film of all time.

But what if the person having the close encounter with an alien lifeform wasn’t in fact a human at all?

It is a question that Aardman Animations have set out to answer with their sequel to 2015’s blockbuster Shaun the Sheep Movie.

Where that film saw Shaun and his flock-mates venture into the big city to find their lost farmer, here the tables have turned and a new lost hero crash-lands at Mossy Bottom Farm who turns out to need Shaun’s assistance.

This new friend is Lu-La, a mischievous tutti-frutti-coloured alien who lands on Earth while searching for her way back to a foreign planet.

She looks a little different and lives a curious life in our world, with frequently hilarious results.

Her homecoming mission intersects with the scheming plans of a covert government UFO organisation led by the poker-faced Agent Red.

They are determined to sabotage the unlikely but still peaceful co-existence between sheep, dogs — and now aliens.

Mismatched friendships build sturdy foundations when it comes to lovable comedies, and Shaun and Lu-La don’t disappoint.

Their shared affinity is one of utterly foreign but somehow totally comprehensible baas and bleats, calling to mind the perfect opposites of Wall-E and Eve, Marlin and Dory, Lady and the Tramp.

The filmmakers clearly have a love for sci-fi as the film is chock-full of references to such classics of the genre as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien and, yes, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. — which eagle-eyed parents will no doubt enjoy spotting.

Farmageddon boasts the outstanding claymation detail that Aardman fans have come to expect and promises a feelgood treat for all the family.

The film is now showing at Henley’s Regal Picturehouse cinema.

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