Thursday, April 25, 2013

Movie Review: Chicken Little

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Plenty of jokes, fun story overall
Cons: Pacing problems
The Bottom Line:
Fun take on story
That moves beyond familiar
With lots of wild laughs

What If the Sky Really Were Falling?

While Disney is often credited with the computer animated movies of Pixar, they were actually one of the last animation studios to release films in this new format. Chicken Little is one of their early efforts. It's out there. But it's also lots of fun.

We all know the story of Chicken Little (Zach Braff), the poor little chicken who tried to warn the town that the sky was falling only to have it turn out to be an acorn. But what happened to him after the story ended? That's what this movie tells us.

Turns out that Chicken Little is in middle school. His exploits of a year ago are an embarrassment to his father, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall). And the fact that there are commemorative plates and an upcoming movie based on the story haven't done much for the father/son relationship.

Despite Buck's constant pleas, Chicken Little is determined to prove his worth to his father. And, just as he's about to put the whole sky is falling nonsense behind him, it happens again. What should Chicken Little do this time?

Let's get the bad out of the way up front, shall we? The pacing is off in this film. It spends half the movie making you think it will be one thing before switching into high gear and going off into left field. And that switch really does seem out of place. Honestly, if the previews for the film hadn't given so much away, I might not have liked it. (Who would have thought, spoilers being good.)

Furthermore, the first half is slow. Don't get me wrong, there are some great laughs here. But once things take a turn for the science fiction, the action really picks up.

Finally, the second half might scare small children. Things look pretty out of control and it gets quite scary. Once they know what is really happening, they should be okay with it. So you might want to watch it before you let your kids sit down with it.

Because it really is a fun film.

Chicken Little may not fit in with the majority of his classmates, but he does have some good friends. Frankly, I get a kick out of them. There's Abby Mallard, aka Ugly Duckling. And she's the normal one. We've got Fish Out of Water, a fish who goes around with a diving helmet full of water over his head. Rounding out the group is Runt of the Litter, who is the largest of the group. He's a pig who happens to be smallest of his family. Even though he's the tallest member of the group, he's the fraidy cat, too.

Then there are the little touches. There's one scene of Chicken Little and his dad talking in a car where the background action is so funny I miss the dialog. There's a great Indiana Jones spoof near the beginning. And the dialog is filled with jokes including take offs of common animal phrases we use all the time.

The voice acting is perfect here. Zach Braff sounds just like a young kid, which makes Chicken Little work. The supporting cast includes the likes of Don Knotts as the bumbling mayor Turkey Lurkey, Patrick Stewart as a teacher at school, and Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara. Joan Cusack is perfect as Abby Mallard. I normally find her vocal inflections odd, but they work here. Finally, watch for a cameo by Adam West.

The animation isn't up to the Pixar standards, but it isn't trying to be realistic. Instead, this is an animated world. Yet it doesn't come across looking cheap here but stylized.

Finally there's the moral. While it gets a bit preachy here, it's also good to be reminded of the importance of honest communication and true love and acceptance.

Is Chicken Little a perfect Disney film? No. Is it fun? Yes. And, ultimately, that's what it is all about.

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