Chicken Little

| November 5, 2005

In a post-Pixar world, The Walt Disney Company has made its first jump into CG animation with Chicken Little. We been seeing previews for this flick for well over a year, and it debuts this weekend to some mixed reviews by the adults but raves of laughter from the little ones.
We saw the film at a 9 PM showing, attempting to avoid the little carpet rats, but even at that late hour, the theater was packed. And they were laughing. A lot. I laughed, too but not as much.
Chicken Little is the story, as everyone knows, of a little bird, who gets hit by a piece of the sky and warns everyone that the sky is falling. The town does not believe him — they think it was just an acorn hitting a dozing chick. His reputation is destroyed, but like every good hero, he strives to restore it. With the help of his friends (the misfits of the school), he is redeemed when a piece of the sky — actually, the bottom of a space ship — falls again.
I was a little lost, though. The chicken IS hit the first time but the piece disappears. The chicken IS hit a second time, but we are shown a sky that is made up entirely of alien spaceships at one part of the movie, but in another, the spaceships are just flying through the sky and only reflect what is behind them, making them invisible to those on the ground. You know, it really sucks when I watch a cartoon and all I can think about is that it does not make any sense.
What the kids saw: Chicken Little and his friends running around a lot to save the world. Didn’t we see this in Jimmy Neutron? Oh heck, that was two years ago and I don’t remember. There are lots of bright lights, and that fish is running around with water in his diving mask, and there is a baseball game where Chicken Little hits a home run, and he goes on a space ship to find Fish Out of Water and it is a little scary when the aliens start shooting up the town (didn’t I see this in War of the Worlds? Oh, no, my parents didn’t let me see that scary piece of diaper filling).
What the adults saw: Like the good old days of Bugs Bunny, this cartoon has many jokes that are put in for the older members of the audience. Sight gags, references to some other Disney/Touchstone products, a repetitive shot at politicians and those who pull George’s strings, and plenty of laughs to make this a watchable film. Do I need to see it again? Probably not, but with my goddaughter not even 6 months old, I expect that in 5 years I will.
That is the biggest difference between Chicken Little and say…. ANY of the Pixar-Disney products – the watchability factor. I have seen Shrek a few times and enjoyed it quite a bit. I have seen Chicken Little once and that’s really all I need to see. The story is mediocre and has some holes that, even with a cartoon, need to be filled to capture my interest. About the cutest thing is the love story between Chicken Little and Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack, the perfect voice for a duck).
I found the animation superb and the concept cute, though poorly executed. The voices of the characters were well cast because they are familiar. Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley, Runaway Bride) as Chicken Little’s dad, Steve Zahn (Sahara, Shattered Glass, Saving Silverman) as Runt of the Litter, Don Knotts as the Mayor, Patrick Stewart (X-Men) as a teacher, Fred Willard (Best in Show), Adam West (Batman), Patrick Warburton (Sky and has 7 movies in production), and Harry Shearer (The Simpsons) all make appearances. Zach Braff (Garden State) is the voice of Chicken Little, but his voice is not distinctive enough to give us that “instant familiarity” feeling about the character.
Disney did a good job. But because it is Disney, good is not good enough. And neither is Chicken Little.

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