Aardman movies used to feel like events. Their unique visual language and attention to detail, that necessitated long production times, made each new film (or TV movie) special. Alas, with this, and with Early Man, we see how lengthy production can make things feel dated. Farmageddon is still a fun film peppered with creative visual humour and signature touches but it also feels stale, and in no way an event.
Realistically, this is fine – and probably more financially viable. Aardman movies are a hell of an investment so safe hits are a sensible decision. On the plus side, this movie still looks gorgeous. The claymation is very pretty and detailed; it’s the Aardman aesthetic but the aesthetic is strong. The expressivity of the models continues to impress and you can still play scan the screen to notice all the clever little touches.
Narratively, this is an odd one. It is simultaneously numbingly conventional and utterly bizarre. This is really because it is a very tropey and traditional narrative – a landed alien wants to go home – that is spiced up with non-sequiturs and Aardman brand surrealism. But, due to the established Aardman formula, these quirks also feel traditional. This blend of slapstick and cine-literate references once felt chaotic and new, now it just feels done. The litany of allusions to science fiction cinema that litter this film feel very forced, just there to keep the adults vaguely entertained while doing nothing for the children.
Because, this movie is very overtly aimed at children. And that is why it works. It is above par children’s entertainment, and just doesn’t need the allusions to Robocop, Alien and the like to feel legitimate. The film works better when playing to its audience rather than pausing to wake up the parents. Though, this being said, some of the child focused elements are annoying. The kids-pop soundtrack is obnoxious and doesn’t match the action – it again feels like another element meant to keep attention for the sake of it, or a box to be ticked.
It’s also a shame that they use non-instrumental music as the film is entirely non-verbal, and does so well by this. The visual gags are mostly great, if familiar, and then suddenly having songs talk to you does detract. The wider soundtrack is much better and knows how to underscore the content without cutting against it.
This is a fine children’s movie that would have been great a few years ago – or with fewer films like it. If you haven’t seen the wider Aardman catalogue, you’d love this. But, then you should just watch those films because you’ll love them more. However, with this you still get a cute and sparky adventure that will keep the kids more than entertained – before you bore them with your rant about why it was strange they used the 2001: A Space Odyssey music to accompany a sequence referencing Signs. Kids love that stuff.