Chicken Little (2005) / Animation-Adventure
MPAA Rated: G, suitable for all audience (I'd rate it PG for some mild crude humor)
Running Time: 81 min.
Cast (voices): Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Amy Sedaris, Wallace Shawn, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Patrick Warburton, Adam West
Director: Mark Dindal
Screenplay: Steve Bencich
Chicken Little marks the first wholly Disney produced animated film since their pledge to ditch traditional hand-drawn animation in favor of 3D computer graphics-laden vehicles. Unfortunately for Disney, in the process, they have also lost the formula for making enduring family fare, as it seems that the powers-that-be have made the decision not to make a traditional Disney film, but to emulate the other CGI movies that have been released in recent years instead. Sad, but apparently now true - no one is left to make movies in the Disney tradition anymore. Now all we will have to look forward to is frenetic computer-generated eye-candy fests full of noise, music, all-too-obvious in-jokes, potty humor, puns, and ersatz messages of family unity. Perhaps the kiddies won't mind the eye-popping colors and the whiz-bang of non-stop sights and sounds, but adults might find the urge to close their eyes and drift off to sleep too difficult to resist.
Zach Braff (Garden State, "Scrubs") voices Chicken Little, a nebbish young chick that gets himself into an embarrassing situation for himself and his doting father, Buck (Garry Marshall, A League of Their Own), by telling the town that the sky is falling. Believed to be delusional, Chicken Little finds he must prove himself to his off-put sports-loving father again by taking up baseball, and being a hero on the field. Meanwhile, another "piece of the sky" appears, and Chicken Little is now too gun-shy to tell the town about what appears to be imminent danger for them all from a menace up above, in the form of creatures from outer space.
All of Chicken Little's positive points can be attributed to the production side of things. The special effects are very well done, with fluid animation, good character detail, and a very rich overall design. The sound effects are extremely good, and there are many sing-along moments for those that enjoy films with lots of music (mostly pop tunes of the 70s, 80s, and 90s here).
That said, Disney has employed the Shrek formula of ending their movie with a feel-good song where the characters sing, although there appears to be no reason why Elton John's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" is chosen, as it has absolutely nothing to do with the message of the movie. More puzzling is that it has already been done before, in another Shrek wanna-be, Ella Enchanted. Mystifying, until you realize that the alien invasion of the film is also borrowing heavily from the looks of War of the Worlds. Disney, once the leader in family entertainment, has now resorted to looking to everyone else for inspiration, as Chicken Little seems to have none of its own to cling to.
Chicken Little makes the most of its $60 million dollar budget, and should probably have no problem recouping their investment. The down side to this is that they will read the profits to mean that the public thinks that this is the way they want their family fare to be presented, causing more films with similarly cannibalistic tendencies to be produced in the future. While I would have little problem in letting a young child see this, especially if they haven't already seen Finding Nemo, Shrek, and many of the other movies this one emulates, this is a difficult film to sit though for more mature, family film-savvy viewers. Never content to rest for a second, Disney makes up for a lack of appealing story by letting the jokes, songs, and effects fly at us fast and furious. Unlike Pixar, Disney is too scared to take a chance by making a film wholly different from the pack. Ironically, as their first completely in-house production, Chicken Little seems as appropriate a choice as it gets.
©2005 Vince Leo