(G) Directed by Mark Burton, Richard Starzak
Starring sheep

by Ben McEachen

Picking a movie for the whole family, often seems like an impossible dream. This school holidays, though, you can live the dream. Animated adventure Shaun The Sheep ranks up there with the most inoffensive movies ever. From the same people that brought us Chicken Run and Wallace and Gromit, Shaun The Sheep is so nice and accessible that adults must abandon cynicism. Plus, it has something to say to our workaholic world about getting some rest.

Although this huggable movie becomes repetitive – as if a half-hour TV show has been strained to 80-ish minutes – Shaun The Sheep has plenty going for it. The simple tail, er, tale of Shaun encouraging his wooly pals to take a day off, delivers chuckles and colourful delights. Kids should dig the playful hijinks, while adults marvel at how Shaun The Sheep has no dialogue. As farm animals search the Big City for their missing farmer, no words are used. Instead, a familiar but likeable plot travels well on noises, gestures and the universal language of doors being slammed in a dog's face.

Shaun The Sheep is memorable for being appropriate for all-ages, and doing so without words. But also worth noticing is Shaun wanting a break from his routine life. From crack of dawn to lights out, every day is the same for Shaun's flock. Their farmer works them hard, with no time for anything but serving the farm's output.

Even the youngest viewers should sadly realise the world around them often can resemble Shaun stuck in his rut. We all know “busyness” has become the everyday business of, well, everyone. A merry-go-round of daily living, where we lose sight of what anything is for. Balance between work, rest and play dissolves into a perpetual slog. Sigh.

As Shaun seeks to break free for a break, you also might pause to consider whether you should seek the same. Weirdly, a nice little animated movie might help us to remember a basic fact of existence that God implemented from the first week of everything. “By the seventh day God completed His work that He had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done.” (Gen 2:2) Even God took a break, declaring that seventh day to be holy - because he rested. What's more, as we're told later in Exodus 31:17, God's rest on the seventh day also refreshed Him. Repeat: rest refreshed God.

Somehow, in the over-stimulated course of our lives, we forget that our hard-working God rested. And, within the Ten Commandments, he entrenched the same rest for those who serve and love Him (“...but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You must not do any work...” Exod 20:8)

Say what you want about whether Old Testament laws still directly apply to God's people, but look at Shaun the Sheep. He is something of a symbol for how unceasing work destroys the purpose behind it. Worse, our denial of regular rest wastes an opportunity for us to live out the holy and refreshing character of God himself.

This review was originally published in Eternity magazine, April 2015. For more Culture articles on Eternity, click here.