Chicken Run

Release Date: June 17th, 2000

Cast (voices):

Mel Gibson   Rocky the Rooster
Julia Sawalha   Ginger
Miranda Richardson   Mrs. Tweedy
Tony Haygarth   Mr.Tweedy
Jane Horrocks   Babs

Directors: Peter Lord  and Nick Park   

Chicken Run is an oasis in the vast cinematic desert that is the summer movie season.  At a time of the year when the quantity of money spent seems to supplant the quality of what is presented, this film is a refreshing reminder of what universally appealing entertainment should be.

The story borrows shamelessly from The Great Escape, one of Dreamworks co-founder Steven Spielberg’s favorite movies.  The prisoners have become poultry while the German prison camp is now a British egg farm.  The chickens are led Ginger, who instills into the others, her passionate dreams of life beyond the fences.  Ginger’s band of poultry includes; Babs, a stereotypical ditz, Mac, a Scottish brainy nerd and Fowler, the wise sage RAF veteran who dislikes and distrusts all things new, modern, and American. Their captors are the Tweedys.  The Mrs. is controlling vision of a 50-year old Olive Oyl with a Cockney accent.  She has visions of dollar sign pies dancing in her eyes.  The Mr. is an obedient, subservient husband with continuous delusions of plotting poultry.  When the chickens’ hopes seem most futile in, literally, drops Rocky the Rooster, an American Rhode Island Red.  Rocky inspires new hope and potential in the chickens escape plan.  He becomes their savior and hope for a new and better life.

The multi-dimensional success of the film stems from the ability to bridge the age gap and tickle funny bones across generations and cultures.  The visual antics appeal to the younger viewers while the dialogue and cultural references reach above to the adult audiences.  The level at which the humor succeeds is directly relational to the knowledge of the subject matter.

In this year of the breakthrough animation of Dinosaur, this movie succeeds in its simplistic genius.  The claymation styling is just as time consuming to produce as others, however the onscreen appearance flows seamlessly and smoothly.  Those familiar with Park’s Wallace and Gromit work will appreciate and admire the translation to the bigscreen.  For those just being introduced to Park’s mastery, the other films are available on video and are just as amazing and funny.

The key to what melds and holds this movie together is the combination of the animated antics, intelligent dialogue, inside jokes, and cinematic references into something that never becomes too much of any, but just the right balance of all.

Ultimately, Chicken Run is a perfect family movie for the summer and for that matter any time of the year.  It continues Dreamworks clarification of not just making cartoons, but animated movies.  In that area, they have surpassed Disney by not falling into a carbon copy movie mold.  Chicken Run is an example of how to make something that is nice to look at and contains substance, without bowing to conventional cinematic devices or insulting the intelligences of the viewers while still appealing to several genres of movie fans. ($$$ out of $$$$)

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