Sheep & Wolves Review
Set in a pastoral paradise, a village of sheep live in peace until a nomadic tribe of wolves move into the mountains nearby. One of those wolves is a hopeless clown, Grey, whose frustrated lover, Bianca, waits for him to grow up. When the old pack leader Magra retires, only two wolves accept the challenge of a leadership battle, the cruel Ragear and the goofy Grey. During one of Grey's practical jokes he ruins his chances at leadership and drives Bianca away. Distraught, Grey wanders the plain until he comes across a travelling show where a rabbit offers him a potion to help him change. The potion works, in an unexpected way, by turning the wolf into a ram - the literal wolf in sheep's clothing.
Sheep & Wolves is a cookie cutter story about being yourself or growing up and maturing or something. But to be honest the film isn't really focussed on any of that, it has bad jokes and filler to share. We have a long protracted sequence of Grey falling off buildings to revert back to being a wolf, multiple party scenes, (one for each community), plus the travelling show. We have uninteresting side stories, including one about a sheep mustering up the courage to ask someone else out. While the film itself is about 85 minutes, cutting out all extraneous content including most of the side characters, there is about 30 minutes worth of movie here.
This film was released in 2016 alongside Disney animated films like Zootopia, Finding Dory and Moana. While these films had texture and weight in their animation with atmospheric effects, convincing fur animation and interesting character designs, Sheep & Wolves feels more like an extended television programme regarding quality. Everything is well lit and rendered, it is just flat. The grass is just sticks of green, the sky is either midnight blue or a clear blue, there is just no sense of realistic space, places or character. This is not helped by odd dubbing issues which mean that you are never really convinced that the characters are speaking, rather you become aware of the actor in a booth, talking through a load of pixels. This odd animation also spreads to character movement; it is strange and occasionally static. The momentum of certain run cycles is jerky and odd, and there is one scene when Grey as a ram collides with Ragear that almost feels like a bad cut-scene from a video game.
Then, there's the voice acting. While this was originally released in Russia with a Russian voice cast, the UK release lacks that track, probably due to the change in dubbing that occurs during the production of the disc. This film features the talent of Tom Felton, best known as Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter films, Jim Cumming, a veteran of the voice acting profession, and Ruby Rose from Orange is the New Black and John Wick: Chapter 2. Aside from Cummings, it is clear that the cast does not have previous voice acting experience, none of the characters interact with each other. It is very obvious that the actors were in sound booths saying their lines together and it being edited in post. You could make the excuse that because the actors are dubbing over a film rather than recording original ADR which was always going is going to mess with timing and rhythm. However, it is also clear from the mix that none of the actors shared geographical proximity in the making of this film.
Tom Felton is perhaps the most obvious example to point to as our lead Grey. None of the lines seem to flow together as the readings of the lines vary wildly. While Felton makes an attempt to provide an energy to Grey, he delivers an atrociously amateurish, irritatingly smug performance that fails to connect with other characters or the audience. It is not just Felton that turns in an embarrassing performance, I would say most of the cast do.
Thunderbird releasing have done an average job on this release. The only extra available is an interview with Felton and Rose about the film and their characters where they look remarkably awkward about the project. The film is of course only available with an English audio track, with subtitles for the hard of hearing and this plus the video track are perfectly serviceable. There was a slight error in playback on the video but when I skipped back the disc and replayed the error did not repeat itself.
All in all Sheep & Wolves is frustrating in how underwhelming it is. From the story to the animation and voice acting, everything combined to make this an incredibly average movie.