Chicken Little

Chicken Little


Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

One year ago, imaginative Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff) was hit on the head and declared that the sky was falling down, sending the animal inhabitants of Oakey Oaks into a destructive panic. Still trying to live the incident down and regain the affection of his widowed father Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall), the bespectacled bird-nerd joins the school baseball team which, contrary to everyone's expectations, he leads to an upset victory.

Just as he is beginning to enjoy newfound acceptance in the community, once again Chicken Little sees a piece of the sky fall down, and with the help of his misfit friends Abby Mallard, aka Ugly Duckling (Joan Cusack), Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn) and Fish out of Water (Dan Molina), he must convince the townsfolk, and most of all his dad, that he is not just crying wolf when he says there are aliens about.

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Without in any way wishing to suggest that one children's animated film is as good as another, the primary target audience is easier to please than is often admitted. Something hardwired in the brain makes toddlers love the kaleidoscopic primary colours, stylistically inchoate images and goofy sound effects of cartoons. Throw in some singing and dancing, child-like characters and toilet humour, and most younger viewers will be creaming their trainer pants with delight.

All these things are to be found in Chicken Little and they will no doubt keep the little ones clucking with glee. Their elder siblings, however, or the parents who get dragged along, will be looking for something more to keep them engaged, and it is here that Mark Dindal's Chicken Little, like so much other recent Disney fare, fails to distinguish itself. For it is the cinematic equivalent of a battery-farmed egg: not exactly rotten, but surrounded by dozens of others just like it in appearance, shape and taste.

It may be the first entirely computer generated feature to have been made in-house by Disney, but this merely highlights how far behind the times the once-innovative corporation has become, resorting rather late to a medium that its one-time subsidiary Pixar and rival Dreamworks have been successfully colonising for years. No doubt technophiles in the audience will marvel at the film's very high specs, and the few who have access to one of the select cinemas capable of screening it in its much-vaunted digital 3D format will be in for some unparalleled eye candy, unless of course they have seen Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids 3D: Game Over, or The Adventures Of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3D.

Certainly, Chicken Little looks fantastic, but these days no less can be expected of studio animation. More problematic is the dearth of original ideas to match its vivid spectacle. No matter how "ironic" it may be to name Chicken Little's best friends Ugly Duckling, Runt of the Litter and Fish out of Water, that irony is not enough to erase their cliched nature. The relationship between Chicken Little and Buck Cluck that forms the heart of the film seems designed to reflect the connection between the kids in the cinema and the dads who have escorted them there, but this focus on fatherhood has already been seen in previous CGI features like Finding Nemo, Shark Tale and The Incredibles.

What remains is the odd bit of post-modern parody, including topical references to War Of The Worlds and King Kong, some cutely anachronistic updates on the whole fairy tale genre, as per Shrek, and enough visual gags in the background to reward close attention, or, for the little ones, multiple viewings when it comes out on DVD. Best of all, however, is the hyperactive pace and relatively short duration, which combine to prevent Chicken Little from ever quite becoming a big turkey.

Reviewed on: 13 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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Angus Wolfe Murray ****1/2

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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