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Chicken Run (2000) – Movie Review

Chicken Run movie poster

Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick with additional dialogue by Mark Burton & John O’Farrell, based on a story by Peter Lord & Nick Park
Directed by: Peter Lord & Nick Park
Starring: Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Benjamin Whitrow, Tony Haygarth

My Advice: Don’t miss it.

Ginger (Sawalha) is a chicken with a dream. She wants to escape from the farm she is kept captive in, her egg-laying abilities and those of her comrades exploited by the Tweedys (Richardson and Haygarth). She has all of these marvelous plans for escape–but she insists on getting the rest of the farm’s population out as well. Suffice to say, it’s one disappointment after another. That is, until one day, a rooster from America named Rocky (Gibson), literally drops in on the farm–and he inspires Ginger to think that perhaps there is a way out after all.

[ad#longpost]Many many moons ago, I spied a short film called “Creature Comforts”–and laughed my buttocks clean off. Using stop motion claymation and putting the words of people taken from actual interviews into the lip synched mouths of animals, Aardman Animation started something. Now, with that short and the uber-popular “Wallace and Gromit” series of shorts under their belts, Aardman wisely waited until the right studio would come along to give them what they needed to pull off a theatrical feature–their way. Bravo to DreamWorks for being the ones smart enough to bring Aardman in and let them do what they do best.

What Aardman does best is to create claymation of the sort that has half the audience lost in the story and the other half marveling at the quality of the stop motion animation. First: the story. The idea of taking the genre of such films as The Great Escape and employing chickens as protagonists is delightfully twisted. Then they give us such characters as the clueless Baba (Jane Horrocks) who thinks everyone is on holiday and the slightly daft Fowler (Whitrow) who is in his element only when everyone humors him and allows him to be “in charge.” On top of everything else, there are the very astute homages to everything from the aforementioned Steve McQueen film to Braveheart. There’s something in it for everyone, essentially. Yes, for the most part you’ll see the story coming from a mile off, but you won’t care. It’s not the big surprises that please in this film, it’s the little unexpected ones. I won’t give them away here, for I think they’re most effective when they come out of left field–but my favorites involved the flight training and the many activities of the merchant rodents.

When all is said and done, here’s hoping that for once a superb animated film that doesn’t have cutesy singing will actually get the box office it deserves. Disney’s good for what they do, but there must be options out there. And this is an option you should take. You will believe a chicken has teeth.

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