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Chicken Little
2005 - G - 77 Mins.
Director: Mark Dindal
Producer: Randy Fullmer
Written By: Robert L. Baird, Steve Bencich, Ron J. Friedman and Dan Gerson
Starring: Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart and Amy Sedaris
Review by: Bill King
Official Site: disney.go.com/disneypictures/chickenlittle/index.html
   

Chicken Little's bottle rocket.
The Walt Disney Company gave the boot to traditional animation because of the old phrase, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." Pixar's efforts have simply been too good and too successful, while Disney's latest offerings have been unimpressive (though 'Brother Bear' wasn't all that bad). 2004's lousy 'Home on the Range' was the last 2-D animated movie, and now the company plans to follow the trail laid down by Pixar and jump into the realm of CGI. In doing so, the company practically guarantees itself an audience. The task at hand is not to let everyone leave the theater feeling cheated.

'Chicken Little' is a good enough movie to please the kids and entertain the parents. In a way, this is disappointing, because it shows that the animators and writers were concerned with meeting the minimal requirement for entertainment, rather than pushing themselves to accomplish something better. It's like studying for a test just enough to get a passing grade, instead of studying harder to get an A.

'Chicken Little''s humor is the same pop culture referential type that 'Shark Tale' and 'Robots' employed. This is usually an attempt by a movie to cover up its shortcomings. There's none of the slyness of 'Shrek' or the subtext of 'The Incredibles.' The writers instead focused on humor and cuteness, which in and of itself isn't necessarily a bad thing. The movie is funny, colorful and over before it wears out its welcome (77 minutes in length), but it's content to be just a crowd pleaser.

In the town of Oakey Oaks, animals live with all the characteristics of humans, right down to the diverse personality traits that make them seem like the distant cousins of the Sweet Pickles gang. Chicken Little (Zach Braff) is an undersized fowl who gets no respect because he caused a panic by announcing to everyone that the sky is falling. Nobody believed him, and a year later, everyone still gets on his case about it. His father Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall) doesn't have much confidence in him. One day, Chicken Little decides he's not going to take it anymore. He joins the school baseball team to win over everyone's approval.

Just when things are starting to turn around, another piece of the sky hits Chicken Little on the head. This time his fears are confirmed when he learns that aliens are watching over Oakey Oaks. He wants to warn the town again, by memories from the year before still haunt him. Luckily, he has witnesses this time. Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), Runt (Steve Zahn) and Fish out of Water (Dan Molina) form Chicken Little's hyperactive posse. They were all onboard an alien ship, where they see a map of the solar system with all planets from Pluto to Mars crossed out. Earth is the next target.

The alien invasion plot provides closure for the story, because anything less subtle wouldn't have worked. The story doesn't develop its characters, nor does it feature any kind of strong plotting. The movie takes a cue from "The Flintstones" by placing animals in various situations in which we would normally see a machine. For example, there's a lizard posing as a traffic signal, and a goat that cuts (eats) grass like a lawnmower. Little jokes like these are amusing, but add no real substance to the narrative.

Pixar did an admirable job by setting such high standards with its computer animation. It showed us the possibilities for the medium, not only with its stellar CGI but also with the desire to produce strong scripts. Even Pixar's "weakest" film, 'A Bug's Life,' had a lot going for it. Disney eventually followed suit by switching to computer animation, but the scripts are still not up to speed. 'Chicken Little' is a fun movie. It's not a waste of time, unless your own personal standards are set pretty high, in which case you're better off waiting for this to come out on video.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

 
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