Ginger has been taken to the shed. There lies Mrs. Tweedy's new machine --
where chickens go in, and pies come out. Rocky runs in to save her, and
together they must dodge chutes, chopping blocks, mincers, gravy squirters,
pastry cutters and an oven.
This is an amazing moment in "Chicken Run", the first animated feature to be
co-directed by Nick Park of "Wallace and Gromit" fame. The plot involves the
escape attempts of chickens on Tweedy farm, where the lady of the house has
decided to ditch egg production and focus on selling meat. If everything had
been in the same vein as the scene above -- vital to the characters, true to
their nature, staged excitingly -- then the movie might live up to its ad
campaign, which hypes it as the latest kiddie flick to revolutionise the
genre. It doesn't, and isn't even a very good film.
The chickens hold meetings in Hutch 17, there is a Cooler King and a
hyperactive Scot, and a character played by Mel Gibson at one point shouts
"Freedom!". But references to "Stalag 17", "The Great Escape", "Braveheart"
and countless other pieces of pop culture feel forced, because they're
stuffed into scenes without any thought, like a desperate attempt to make the
humour hip. "The Simpsons" satirises pop culture with subtlety; "Chicken Run"
feels like "Scream 3" for primary-schoolers.
That might be less irritating if the movie worked on some basic level. "Toy
Story" allowed us into the world of toys, "Babe" into that of animals -- so
long as we suspended disbelief enough to accept toys coming to life or
different species of beasts communicating with each other. The creatures in
this picture can read words, write maps, sew, conduct detailed medical
examinations and perform amazing feats of engineering... so what's the point?
Is there any interest or suspense in watching poultry act human, when there
is no logic or limitation to their reality? The climax sees them escape by
building a plane. Go figure.
Small tots will enjoy "Chicken Run" for its visual delights. The Claymation
process here has advanced significantly from the "Wallace and Gromit" days --
it now involves a different form of shooting, and models built around
detailed synthetic skeletons. For older children and adults, it's thin soup.
Watching chickens behave like people, even if they have been brought to life
with fluid dimensionality, is like watching kids dress in their parents'
clothes -- cute and amusing for about five minutes, and then you just wish
they'd find another game to play.
Copyright © 2000 UK Critic