Summer 2000 has been long and dry movie-wise. Mel, Tom, and Nick were supposed to thrill us with American flags, impossible missions, and really, really fast cars. Instead, phenomenal Claymation has taken over and likeminded birds of a feather must flock together for these chickens.
The British team of Peter Lord and Nick Park, creators of the Wallace & Gromit short films joined with Dreamworks to present us with a creative, touching film poulet about the chicken underworld.
The plot is straightforward: Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy (voiced by the cruel Miranda Richardson) run a poultry gulag surrounded by barb wire that looks like a barren wasteland. Her rule is simple: the hens who donít produce enough eggs go straight to the chopping block. Fortunately for the chickens, there is a rebel in their midst. Ginger (Julia Sawalha from Absolutely Fabulous) is forever spending time in solitary confinement for organizing against her captors. Enter Rocky (Mel Gibson), the self appointed "Lone Free Ranger". Heís a rooster on the lam from the circus with a penchant for cute chicks. He claims he can fly so Ginger agrees to hide him in return for his expertise and training. The sequence of chicken boot camp is hilarious. We all know the glitchRockyís lie will be found out. Chickens, just as pigs, canít fly! The tension mounts as Mrs. Tweedy hatches a new plan-instead of making peanuts with eggs sheís going to invest in a chicken pot pie maker- a contraption so ominous it means sure death for all of the chickens. What follows is an emotional roller coaster as Ginger hatches her own new plan for escape.
You come to truly care for the characters. Gingerís determination is balanced to perfection by Babs, (voiced by Jane Horrocks of Little Voice) the village idiot you canít help but like. Fowler, the old RAF rooster adds a grumpy old man touch. Melís Rocky is funny in his playful arrogance, reminiscent of Thomas OíMalley the alley cat from The Aristocats. Disney must take note, for many of their animated characters have been sacrificed to cheesy songs.
Thereís a delightful play between Brits and Americans as well. Rocky is the typical boastful yet goodhearted American who can make everyone laugh and dance but canít deliver on the goods, while Ginger, the optimistic but realistic Brit tells is like it is and has a bit of trouble leading the masses. Their push and pull as well as their feathery romance gives the film some bounce. Also, the English fascination with garden gnomes comes out (as it did in The Full Monty) and their crafty role is amusing in one key scene.
The action sequences were more compelling than Iíd expected. Fleeing from the terror of the gravy squirter in the chicken pot pie machine ( a scary marvel in iteself) was scarier than the crashing waves in The Perfect Storm.
Poultry humor abounds here, of course. And the chickens really lay it on you (HA!).
While silly and childlike, adults will have no problem enjoying this film and becoming engrossed. The powerful range of emotions conveyed in this Claymation wonder are appreciated by all. The storyline is linear and simple, as are many summer movies, but this movie has heart and creative attention to detail in mind instead of merely pandering for the coveted summer dollar.
Chicken Run is compelling enough to make vegetarian revolutionaries out of all of us, and makes us respect the fight for freedom more than The Patriot could.