movie film review | chris tookey

Chicken Run

2000 DreamWorks L.L.C., Aardman Chicken Run Limite - all rights reserved
  Chicken Run Review
Tookey's Rating
7 /10
Average Rating
7.86 /10
Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson
Full Cast >

Directed by: Nick Park and Peter Lord
Written by: Karey Kirkpatrick and Jack Rosenthal, based on a story by Nick Park and Peter Lord

Released: 2000
Origin: GB/ US
Colour: C
Length: 83

The Great Escape with chickens.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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The heroine is Ginger (Julia Sawalha), a hen who's anything but chicken. She is boldly determined that she and her comrades should escape from a farm that looks very like a World War II prison camp, governed by the greedy Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) and her dim, henpecked husband (Tony Haygarth).

Unfortunately, Ginger's fellow-chickens are so feather-brained that their various attempts to escape lay an egg. Ginger is unclucky enough to get the blame, and spends much of the first part of the movie in solitary confinement, bouncing a tennis ball against the walls just like an oven-ready Steve McQueen.

They are dropped in on by Rocky the Rooster (Mel Gibson), a cocky Rhode Island red who claims to be able to fly, and whose amorous way with the "chicks" does not endear him to Ginger. They embark on a love-hate relationship reminiscent of Bogart and Hepburn in The African Queen.

Partly thanks to Rocky's can-do attitude and his regime of physical fitness, Ginger and co become more confident of an escape plan. Instead of tunnelling their way out, they decide to go "over the top". And their need to flee the coop is rendered more urgent than ever by the arrival of a vast Heath Robinson-style contraption dedicated to changing Ginger and her friends into chicken pies.

The big question-mark hanging over this project was: would the offbeat sense of humour that has stood Nick Park and his colleagues in good stead in their short films translate to feature length? The short answer is yes. The storyline is simpler and less surreal than in their short films, but that makes it even more accessible to small children. And there are enough clever visual jokes and smart one-liners to please grown-ups, whether parents or not. I particularly liked the rain-soaked chicken posing in the same posture as Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption.

There's some amusing characterisation, with a pair of Arthur Daley-style rats (voiced by Timothy Spall and Phil Daniels) willing to help the hens, whom they regard as dumb clucks, escape in return for eggs. And Jane Horrocks is delightful as a fat, foolish hen who spends most of her time knitting and is terrified that she is next for the pot now that her egg-bearing days are behind her.

There is something derivative about it - it is a straight parody of a prison escape movie, which makes it less innovative and original than some of the best recent Disney efforts. It is not really moving, in the way that the Toy Story movies managed to be. And the animation is jerky, clunky and old-fashioned in a way that constantly draws attention to itself as animation rather than reality. But it has a lot of goofy charm, and should be enjoyed by anyone, whether they are three or 93. And at 83 minutes, it's short and sweet.

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