A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (2019) brings us a clay encounter of the mirth kind

Like most Aardman output, one viewing probably isn’t enough to appreciate everything “A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon” has to offer and that’s probably a good thing because I’m pretty sure I’ll be watching this one over and over again once it hits DVD. Superficially, it’s a bright and cutesy movie spin-off sequel to the successful CBBC TV show with all your [kids’?] favourite characters back for a whacky adventure which transplants much of the plot of “E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial” to Mossy Bottom Farm.

Lu-La, a young alien, finds herself lost and alone in the barn of Mossy Bottom Farm. As the farmer sees a lucrative opportunity in the flying saucer fever sweeping the town, Shaun sets out to make sure Lu-La stays out of the clutches of a sinister government agency and finds a way to get home.

The delight is in the details, of course, and the animation is so exquisitely executed that it’s easy to take it for granted but look closer and you’ll start to appreciate the skill, dexterity and artistry required to deliver split-second comic timing using nothing but clay, cameras and a perfectionist’s patience.

Yes, this is a cute story about a cheeky lamb helping an impossibly cute alien moppet find its way back to its accidentally earthbound flying saucer and the younger members of the audience will be more than content with that. For their older companions – and especially the sci-fi cinephiles among them – “Farmageddon” (not to be confused with the polemic anti-dairy farm documentary) offers a veritable smörgåsbord of nods, references, homages and spoofs to enjoy and savour again and again (the subtle shout-out to “Arrival” being my favourite), spotting something new each viewing.

And it’s not just the sci-fi elements which enrich the backdrop of the adorable animal antics, the trademark Aardman observational satire of parochial British life provides plenty of opportunities for wry smiles by the grown-ups who will still claim they’ve only come to see this because their kids made them. After the surprisingly underwhelming stumble of “Early Man”, Aardman’s retreat to the safety of an established character has paid off and, for ninety minutes, we’re all Cbeebies again.