Shortly before I succumbed to an epic week of stomach issues and other infirmities too painful to mention, I had a good day within which I was able to take my five-year-old son to see Shaun the Sheep. It was only upon waking from my fever dreams that I discovered Shaun didn’t do baaaaadly at the box office. It did horribly. Not only did the movie not deserve its box office performance, but it has to make me wonder what went wrong. Find out some of my guesses why this delightful family film failed after the break.
First, let’s put this failure in perspective. Shaun the Sheep is rated PG, not even PG-13. It is by the makers of Wallace and Gromit, always a fun watch, and their other film property, Chicken Run, was amusing enough since it starred a pre-breakdown Mel Gibson. On its opening weekend it pulled in just over $4 million which ended up #11 for the weekend–meaning it made less than Pixels did the fifth weekend after that latest Sandler-debacle was flushed on us. It opened on over 2,000 screens which isn’t blockbuster status but it didn’t lack for exposure. It has a 7.4 rating on IMDB, an 81 on Metacritic, and a whopping 99% on RottenTomatoes.
With all these things going it for, how could a family friendly movie in the summer fare so badly? Especially one that’s so much fun–there are almost no spoken lines so kids of all ages can follow along. And while not every joke will connect with any individual watcher there’s bound to be a dozen or so that you’ll like while another dozen you won’t. That’s a better ratio than what Minions had to offer.
Perhaps one failure was that while the TV show has aired in over 180 countries according to the Wikipedia article, I can’t recall ever seeing one. Granted, I am not the target audience. But I have two boys and I’ve seen more episodes of kids TV shows, good and bad alike, than I care to admit–and not a single episode of Shaun the Sheep in the mix. That and perhaps a complete lack of marketing made for a generally unaware crowd.
As an August release, the studio wasn’t communicating a lot of confidence in the film as well. End of the summer duldrums, kids getting ready to go back to school, or maybe so many parents were fed up with their children that they punished them with a trip to go see Fantastic Four. It’s hard to imagine why Shaun the Sheep failed and sad that it did. Maybe the movie is too cheery, too light and fluffy. Maybe it needed a darker edge.
Shaun the Sheep’s failure made me sad, but I have to imagine this is one that will do well in the video and DVD sales down the road. Despite the title character, I foresee this movie having a long tail. And I highly recommend it to animation fans or families with kids of any ages.
Score: 9 out of 10 baaaaaad sheep puns.