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CHICKEN LITTLE - 2005
Ratings: USA: G
If you can believe this movie, it was just last year that everything in young Chicken Little's life went to heck. Something hit him on the head. Something in the shape of a stop sign - only it wasn't a stop sign, it was, Chicken Little believed, the sky!
So he rang the town's alarm and, in their panic, the people - er animals - largely destroyed a big chunk of Oakly Oaky, famous for its acorns. When things calmed down a bit, they asked the little chicken - I mean, Chicken Little - to tell them just what the alarm was all about.
"The sky fell on my head," he said. Which seemed ridiculous at first, until an acorn took that moment to fall from the oak Chicken Little (voice of Zach Braff: MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY) stood under and knock him a little woozy. His Pop, Buck Cluck (voice of Garry Marshall), not fully grasping the situation, but trying to protect his son, took over and made his son out to be an imbecile - don't blame him, he's just a kid!
Since then, things didn't quiet down the way Pop had planned. Instead, it became big news, Buck Cluck's idiot child who nearly wrecked a town with a false alarm. Books were written, even a movie was shot, all about one of the biggest goofs ever made. And when you're a shrimpy kid, that doesn't make school any easier. Chicken Little is tormented by a fox named Foxy Loxy (Amy Sedaris) and is trapped in a school where the adults could care less. Never-the-less, this cluck has pluck, and is determined to make his Father proud again. If only there was something he could do.
What he could do, his equally geeky friend, Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack: ADDAMS FAMILY VALUES) tells him, is to confront his Dad; be honest about what he saw, and bring closure to the subject. If Abby seems to know an awful lot for a grammar school tot, it's because she reads magazines like Modern Mallard.
Chicken can't bring himself to do that, although not because he's chicken, but because he and his Pop share a mutual pain: Mother/Wife is dead.
Chicken tries instead, to meet his Pop on his own terms. In high school, Pop was a baseball hero, and the last time that Oakly Oaks grade school won the pennant was when Buck Cluck was the school hero. The pea-sized jock decides he's going to win the game.
The game is a long story, and I mean a LOO-ONG story. It works, thankfully, to the writing team of Steve Bencich and old timer Ron J. Friedman (BEWITCHED [TV], THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR [TV]). Ably assisted by some folks who've worked on Pixar movies, Bencich and Friedman fill the game with snap and zest - which it needs in abundance, because it's otherwise senseless and tacked on.
"I'm not going to sugarcoat this folks, I've seen faster reflexes in roadkill!"
After the game, it looks like life will finally get back to happy and normal for Chicken and his Pop, Buck. Then the sky up and falls on Chicken's head again. Just when things were going so great, the sky fell again. Only this time, Chicken can't hide the evidence.
Merry Mishaps occur.
In truth, the story is as formula as anything and while it wins, it's also a misstep in computer animation that is known among the big studios for being original and peppy! While nowhere near as bad as 20th Century Fox's ROBOTS disaster, of the main writers of CHICKEN LITTLE, only Friedman has had his successes. Why they chose to surround Friedman with three other writers who've wrote flops (Brother Bear? Ugh!), is anyone's guess. Director Mark Dindail is coming off two strikes with Cats Don't Dance and The Emperors' New Groove (the latter of which I happen to like, but it didn't connect with audiences, eh, Pacha?). Disney needed a really strong winner, yet they didn't bother to assemble a crack team. Who knows why? Film wise we've seen countless missteps from the Disney side for the last ten years. Whatever is going wrong over there, it ain't the fault of hand drawn animation.
Yet despite the "Play it safe" story, the characterizations are winning and the dialog doesn't talk down to the audience, even though that audience is supposed to be kids. The animation and color are also wonderful, bolstering a story that, in some places, needs bolstering.
Then the music plays and OH! MY! GHOD! Does it suck! I can only guess that the Dizzy execs were going for "Whatever's the cheapest" in securing rights to some of the worst pop music that was ever forced into hit status. The music is hideously awful, fills in for storytelling in the first fifteen minutes of the film (after which, it is simply played as a joke - a joke you won't laugh at).
In the final thirty minutes, the fun finally begins as the aliens invade, the Sci-Fi monster movie references go flying everywhere, and the movie nearly redeems itself.
All in all, CHICKEN LITTLE is a mixed bag, and as such, might even become a cult hit. Overall I certainly enjoyed it, though not as much as the kids in the audience with me who went absolutely bonkers. Now if only those tots can convince their parents to sit with them, yet again, through another showing of CHICKEN LITTLE, it just might be a smash hit.
Three Shriek Girls.
copyright 2005 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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gets in references from, first and foremost,
WAR OF THE WORLDS
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK.