Black Sheep & r & & r & by BEN KROMER & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & I & lt;/span & 'm a patriot first and a movie critic second, and if I see something wrong with this country, it's my patriotic duty to harp on it. And if my dissent dovetails nicely with a film critique, it's my duty to write it down.

Once upon a time, America was the only country that could make bloody Texas-sized action flicks, because we love that stuff and we're the only ones who could afford the bajillions to make them. Then Lord of the Rings came out of New Zealand and made our biggest epics look small and shriveled. And before that, Peter Jackson made Dead-Alive, also in New Zealand, which out-gored our Michigan-based Evil Dead films. And The Proposition (2006), the best Western since Unforgiven, took place in the Australian outback, for God's sake. My point: Australia may be entirely populated by criminals, but those cons are showing up our movies in all the ways that really count. The last straw was Black Sheep. I thought if American supremacy was secure in one genre, it would be the mutant-animal horror genre. I was wrong.

Black Sheep is set on a New Zealand farm stocked with sheep and familiar characters. In order of familiarity: an evil corporate guy complete with evil scientist attachment, the hero trying to overcome his childhood fear of sheep, a likable sidekick, a dizzy hippie girl, and an old lady with a shotgun. If you've seen movies, you know how these things come together. But if not, here's a primer: The prodigal hero returns to the farm where his evil brother has been genetically modifying sheep. Hippie girl tries to sabotage the operation and accidentally unleashes something that turns sheep carnivorous and makes people turn into sheep. The hero, sidekick, hippie and old lady soldier through the bloody mutated mess. And it's funny. Shaun of the Dead funny, not cloying pseudo-clever Scream funny.

While that's enough to recommend the movie, it's the effects by New Zealand's Weta Workshop (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) that put this baby way over the top. Any of the effects, from gunshot wounds to mutants, could have been done with less effort using CGI, but Weta delivered the animatronic sheep and the real fake blood.

If anything is holding Black Sheep back from becoming a cult classic, it's the title. (Rated R)

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