Chicken Run Review
By Joe Lozito
Ruling the Roost
Why are chickens so damn funny? Is it their silly, stick-thin three-toed feet? The way their heads bob when they eat? Or the way they sound just like Mel Gibson when they talk? In the new claymation delight "Chicken Run", it could be any of the above or a whole lot more.
Brought to us by the brilliant minds behind the "Wallace and Gromit" shorts, Nick Park and Peter Lord, "Chicken Run" is that rare animated film that can easily please all age groups. The kids, for example, probably won't catch the "Stalag 17" references, or "The Great Escape" music during the opening sequence, but they'll love the slapstick antics and tangible animation of the clay heroes. Like the "Toy Story" films, the Mr. Lord and Mr. Park know that the way to truly please audiences of all ages is not to dumb the story down. When one of the hens is taken to the chopping block for her lack of egg production, there is a very real threat there, and a very real sadness for the characters.
And what characters they are! With the added stroke of genius of setting the film in a British henhouse just after World War II (for some reason), the characters in the film are a motley group and they are as three-dimensional as their clay models. It's fascinating to see how the tiny movement of an eyebrow (yes, chickens have eyebrows) or a wing can be so expressive.
Aside from the brilliant and fluid animation style, the creators have also assembled a wonderful cast of voices. Particularly Julia Sawahla, who gives Ginger, the hen-roine of the film, a full range of emotions, and Mel Gibson, doing some of his most expressive vocal work in years as Rocky the Rooster. There are also a host of fully-realized supporting characters which never degenerate into the Disney-esque sidekicks.
The makers of the film knew that they had stumbled upon a treasure trove of potential humor with their premise - a new pie-making machine has made the hen's quest for escape even more imperative - and they have managed to farm about as many laughs as you'd want from the poultry business. There is even the requisite which-came-first-the-chicken-or-the-egg debate. But the philosophical outcome isn't important. In this film, the laughter comes first.