- Reviewed by: Avril Carruthers
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Current Rating 8.53/10 | 38 Votes
Produced by Randy Fullmer
Cast voices: Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Joan Cusack, Steve Zhan, Don Knotts, Dan Molina, Amy Sedaris. In the Australian version Mark Mitchell voices Buck.
Poor Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff) labours under the shame of “the day everything took a turn for the worse” – when he told everyone the sky was falling and put the entire town of Oakey Oaks in a panic. No-one will let him forget it and he’s almost universally bullied and ridiculed except for his loyal friends Abby Mallard, aka Ugly Duckling (Joan Cusack), Runt of the Litter (Steve Zhan) and Fish Out of Water (sound effects by Dan Molina). His father Buck (Garry Marshall), a former baseball hero, avoids mentioning it, but is also in perpetual shame, because patently, the sky didn’t fall and his son therefore must be an idiot or crazy. They should talk about it, father and son, and resolve this uneasy barrier between them instead of continually side-stepping it. It’s something Chicken Little’s dorky, super-sensible friend Abby keeps telling him.
During the course of this movie, Chicken Little faces several challenges with the kind of resourcefulness and courage we all wish we had. Despite his unrelenting cuteness, it seems no one wants to give him a second chance. He decides to join the baseball team, where his best efforts to be noticed are trumped at every turn by his triumphant arch nemesis, Foxy Loxy (Amy Sedaris). Eventually he gets his chance and emerges an unexpected hero. Buck and Little manage some much needed rapport and the youngster begins to feel he’s redeemed himself.
So it’s one of those terrible ironies of life and a solid piece of plot structure that the same piece of hexagonal sky that fell on his head from the oak tree last time, should fall on his head again. This time, it’s much more than an acorn. It’s a space ship that inadvertently leaves something behind that may well cause a cosmic war. Can Little and his friends return the precious something before they are all zapped to Kingdom Come? Will Little finally redeem himself permanently in the eyes of Buck and the rest of the town? Will Buck finally tell Little he loves him no matter what? How far has Little learned the lesson of believing in himself? Can Disney recover technical mastery in 3-D animation now that Pixar is no longer with them?
Children will probably love and identify with Little and his epic struggle to be believed, have faith in himself, learn to communicate and that’s probably good enough for a kids’ movie. Chicken Little is well crafted enough and Disney’s trade mark ‘squash’n’stretch’ sight gags in 3-D are no doubt state-of-the-art animation. It’s funny and the characterisation is quirky. Little’s resourcefulness, for example just to get to school after the school bus takes off without him, is delightful and heroically creative. The twist on the original fable is inventive, if having too many derivative elements. And despite the fact that Chicken Little does have genuine heart, he is just way too cute and unbelievably brave. The story predictably gives all the Disney values as required for parental approval.
Adults will find less to engage them and may find the original elements of the plot overtaken by the many references to other movies. Four misfit friends who find the qualities they need within themselves? - Wizard of Oz, Sky High. A boy has a problematic relationship with his dad, must win his trust and complete a quest requiring bravery and resourcefulness? - Finding Nemo, A Shark’s Tale. Tripod robots and predatory space visitors? – War of the Worlds. Crop circles, corn fields and scary aliens? - Signs. A (cute) alien lost and far from home? – ET. And so on. But still, it’s better than you might expect.
No doubt the kids will barely notice in all the fun of Chicken Little’s journey to selfhood, the funny, smart dialogue and clever sight gags. And while the derivative elements are a tad worrying for future projects, Disney seems more or less back on creative track after the departure of 3-D animation wizards Pixar.
© Avril Carruthers 6th November 2005
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