The little chicken is that bullied kid at school who tries so hard to please and you can't help but smack his head, like everyone else, because his tiny indignation resembles a pizzle sizzle that never blows the oven doors open. "Whadagonnadoabaut't?" you spit, as tears fill his doodle peepers behind those spazzy specs.

Chicken Little is a revenge of the nerds movie, starring a spunky, pint-sized baby rooster, an obese, apologetic porker who talks in song lyrics and a mallard called Abby whose views on personal relationships have been lifted cliche by cliche from girlie duck glossies. This trio from the high school losers' team, with the help (?) of a goldfish, become heroes of a very special kind. With a little love and a burst of speed, they save the world from alien invasion.

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It's all about making dad proud (sob!). Chicken Little will do anything to erase the "sky is falling" incident from the collective memory of his peers. How could anyone mistake an acorn for a collapsing galaxy? Put it down to CL's vivid imagination if you like, but his dad has never recovered from the embarrassment and that HURTS. His son, ever optimistic, with his sad face eager for a crumb of praise, is going to make a difference - however, wherever. He'll find a way.

If you thought Shrek was funny, this takes funny into fresh fields of rollabout. The dialogue may not be as acerbic as South Park, but it's sharp as a dart and the voice actors go so with the flow that they raise the bar to the Toy Story level and beyond. As for the CGI graphics, hold the phone! Animated creatures have never been this expressive. You can feel their pain and exhilaration. You can read their fears and expectations, like bullet points, from subtle nuances of body language.

When CL and his pals come across a panel from the alien spaceship and learn its magic properties, they try to warn the town, but, due to CL's past record of fantasising natural occurrences, the warning is ridiculed. And so the three friends (and a fish) must face the deadly spider machines alone.

Everyone knows it's the writing, stooped!

With post-Pixar animation, it has to be more than that. The script must remain kiddie friendly, as well as laying down witty one-liners for the growns. Imagination needs to veto consensus in favour of risk. The characters require flaws in order to be satirised. Sentimentality receives a cynical implant and, above all, you have to love the little guys, or, in the case of the pig, who shall remain forever hilarious, the fat guys as well.

Mark Dindal's film passes every criteria of excellence except for one. The father/son relationship - Abby keeps saying, "You gotta have closure" - wanders too far into the soggy marshland of "being there for me." It is a small, but nagging, criticism.

Reviewed on: 10 Feb 2006
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A story of misfits who save their high school (and the world) from alien invasion.
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Anton Bitel ***

Director: Mark Dindal

Writer: Steve Bencich, Ron Friedman

Starring: voices of Zach Braff, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack, Garry Marshall, Patrick Stewart, Amy Sedaris, Wallace Shawn, Harry Shearer, Mark Walton, Mark Dindal, Dan Molina, Joe Whyte, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Sean Elmore, Adam West

Year: 2005

Runtime: 81 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US


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