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Black Sheep

Think of a few very baaad puns about sheep and shepherding, make the sheep savage zombies as in a livestock "28 Days Later," and you have your finger on this New Zealand horror/comedy. It's like a silly Will Ferrell movie without a star like Ferrell to anchor it. But also it's like a far too obvious "Shaun of the Dead," essentially a funny idea strung together with middling jokes and the comic gore of attacks by raging sheep, which provide the most entertaining moments.

The setting is a large family sheep farm in New Zealand, where elder brother Angus (Peter Feeney) is busy with genetic experiments when his younger brother, Henry (Nathan Meister), arrives to sell his share of the land. A subplot -- goofy eco-vandals who accidentally free a mutated lamb — unleashes some kind of quickly spreading genetic disease that turns the farm animals savage and begins to affect the people, too. But don't get too caught up in the details. The story exists simply to provide tension and hastily contrived background for the main event: attack of the killer tomatoes, er, sheep.

There is something funny about seeing a timid animal portrayed as a vicious killer, a fact the Monty Python group proved with their rampaging rabbit sequence from "The Holy Grail." These are the most amusing scenes in "Black Sheep," when otherwise docile bleaters bare their fangs and go for the throat. Even if you haven't seen any zombie movie, you'll get the references, too, but fans might complain that director Jonathan King is merely mocking the horror genre in general.

"Black Sheep," with perhaps an aspiration to cult status tucked into the back of its mind, exists to goof off, but the movie is weighed down by an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink mentality. Too free a hand with the humor results in too many obvious and even dumb jokes, culminating with a flock of scatological utterances more at home in a naughty Saturday-morning kids' cartoon. There's nothing wrong with goofing off, but this woolly beast could have used a good shearing.



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