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Chicken Little Review

By Shawn McKenzie 11/06/2005

I guess when I heard about the Disney movie Valiant, I didn’t realize that the animation studio that produced it was a British animation studio called Vanguard Animation.  To this day, that movie has been the most disappointing computer-animated movie I’ve seen so far (if you don’t count the 2001 travesty known as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.)  Disney’s Chicken Little is the first in-house computer-animated movie produced by the studio, and I was a little leery.  Since Valiant didn’t blow me away, I figured that Disney couldn’t do a decent movie without Pixar producing it.  I guess I was wrong, because I consider it the best kiddie movie of 2005 so far.

As the movie opens, Chicken Little (voice of Zach Braff) has set off a panic in his town of Oakey Oaks by saying that the sky was falling.  Everyone freaked out when he rang the town alarm bell, and the panic resulted in a lot of damage to the town and made him the town’s laughing stock.  By the time it was over, they had concluded that it wasn’t the sky that fallen on his head, but an acorn.  The town mayor, Turkey Lurkey (voice of Don Knotts), chastises his widowed father, Buck “Ace” Cluck (voice of Garry Marshall), a one-time high school baseball legend, who is still grieving over his wife Chloe, for not keeping his kid in check.  A year later, people still haven’t forgotten what happened.  They even made a movie about it, called Crazy Little Chicken, and Buck is still embarrassed by his son because of the ongoing publicity surrounding it.  Little does have three close friends though.  Abby Mallard (voice of Joan Cusack), a.k.a. Ugly Duckling, wears braces and is secretly in love with Little.  She constantly keeps trying to talk Little into having a real conversation with Buck and tell his dad all about his frustrations.  Runt of the Litter (voice of Steve Zahn) is an overweight and nervous pig, and he really likes disco music and karaoke.  Fish out of Water (voice of Dan Molina) is probably the bravest friend out of the bunch, but he has to wear a water-filled tank on his head to get around (he just gurgles instead of talking.)  Little really wants to prove to his dad that he is more than a “crazy little chicken,” so he joins the Acorns, the school’s baseball team.  Despite being really small and barely able to hold the bat, he hits a homerun becomes the school’s hero, which ticks off the team’s star player, Foxy Loxy (voice of Amy Sedaris.)  Finally, Buck feels proud of him.  Not long after though, an odd, alien panel falls from the sky, and the image produced on it becomes a snapshot of whatever is behind it.  What he had thought was a piece of the sky was just a mirror image of the sky projected on this panel, and the panel was part of an alien spaceship that had the power to become invisible using the panels.  They explore the ship, but when they leave, a baby alien named Kirby (voice of Sean Elmore, Evan Dunn, and Matthew Josten) follows them.  Kirby’s parents, Melvin (voice of Fred Willard) and Tina (voice of Catherine O’Hara), front a War of the Worlds attack on the town in order to get Kirby back, but it is up to Little and his friends to warn the town.  The problem is that ringing the alarm bell didn’t go off too smoothly the last time, so he wonders how much credibility he has left.

I know that I’m sounding like a broken record, but the reason why I liked the movie was that the writing was entertaining.  Steve Bencich and Ron J. Friedman wrote it, with additional story material written by a pair of writers who were involved in writing the script to the 2001 movie Monsters, Inc., Robert L. Baird and Dan Gerson.  I’m glad that Baird and Gerson had helped Benrich and Friedman out, because Benrich and Friedman’s last collaboration was the 2003 just-okay Disney traditionally-animated movie Brother Bear.  They came up with a script that was witty and filled with many sight gags, something that is usually the forte of the Shrek movies.  You can also credit director Mark Dindal, whose last Disney directing effort was the underrated 2000 movie The Emperor’s New Groove, for shaping the style of the movie.

At first I didn’t know what to think of Braff as the voice of Chicken Little, because I had been disappointed in the vocal performance of Ewan McGregor in the title role in Valiant, but it worked.  All of the rest of the voices were great.  If I saw the characters of Buck and Runt initially, I would have totally pictured Marshall and Zahn to voice them.  Cusack as Abby was a little obvious, but if she doesn’t mind being typecast, than I don’t mind.

Chicken Little has risen above both Madagascar and Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as my favorite kiddie flick of 2005 so far.  Assuming that another movie doesn’t top it in the next two months, it will probably end up being my favorite family film of the year.  I’ve read the comments from other critics who don’t seem to think it is as good as Pixar classics like 2003’s Finding Nemo and last year’s The Incredibles, but think that it comes awfully close.  The other critics may think that the sky is falling for Disney, but I know that audiences won’t be too chicken to see it.

Get the soundtrack featuring songs by Joss Stone and Patti LaBelle, Barenaked Ladies, The Cheetah Girls, and more:

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