Chicken Run

Rated: G
Runtime: 1 Hour and 24 Minutes

Reviewer: Dale
Grade: A+

This was the first sneak preview I have ever been fortunate enough to attend, and I must say that it could not have been for a better movie. As I walked out of this film, my one and only complaint was that I would have to wait a whole week before I would be able to see it again. This movie is a miracle. It is like magic in a bottle. It is nothing short of wonderful. I haven't got enough praise for this film. If you have kids, it is your duty to see this film as quickly as possible. If you don't, borrow some and watch their faces light up with joy. If you can't do either one of these, go anyway. If you don't have access to any kids, this movie will make you feel like one all over again.

Nick Park and Peter Lord have constructed an ingenius fairy tale about a chicken farm. Very early on, we see a montage of the chickens trying to escape and being thrown into a box for their troubles. This provides plenty of opportunity for some totally delightful homages to "The Great Escape". It is an homage, not a ripoff. The difference between the two? An homage acknowledges the films that came before it and takes a bow to them, paying them tribute. A ripoff takes scenes from other films and lifts them wholesale into its own.

Anyway, the chickens know that they will someday be on the boss's dinner plate and they want to escape. They keep trying, but they are never quite able. Then one day a rooster crash lands in their coop. He is on the run from a nearby circus. The chickens offer to hide him from the humans, provided that he will show them how to fly and therefore escape.

This movie is wonderful in every aspect of the word. This movie is like last year's awesome "Iron Giant" in that it accomplishes the magnificent feat of making you care about the fate of characters that are nothing more than drawings or figures made of clay. There is a big heart beating under the surface of this film and that is one of its many strengths. I actually thought this was a more stirring, rousing and emotional argument for freedom than such films as "Gladiator" and "Braveheart". You really get a sense of the oppression here. You get a sense that the characters are in real danger. Their world is real and dangerous and very grim. You immediately like them and want them to accomplish their goals. One of the most difficult things for a movie to do is establish a genuine sense of danger, and this one actually manages to do it. And, even with all this, the movie is a whole lot of FUN. This movie is easily the most entertaining film of 2000. There are moments of side-splitting hilarity here. There are inside jokes that any film fan will appreciate, but you need not be a film fan to love this one. Mel Gibson takes his role and makes it one of his best, even though you are just hearing his voice. Mel Gibson is so identifiable that you immediately know where his character (Rocky the Rooster) is coming from. But Rocky is well-developed also. You WILL love Rocky the Rooster. That is Dale's iron-clad guarantee. Want an example of why? Okay: The first time you see Rocky, he comes sailing over the fence of the chicken farm yelling
"FREEDOM!!!!!!!". There, I knew that would get you to go. The other characters are great too. There is a hen named "Mac" who does all the planning and has an impenetrable Scottish accent. There is an old rooster who is constantly telling stories of his days with the RAF. The villain of the piece is a nasty and ruthless woman named Mrs. Tweedy who constantly belittles her husband for thinking that "the chickens are planning something".

And then there are the action sequences. They have the visual polish and level of kamikaze amusement of Nick Park's "Wallace and Gromit" films as well as the old Looney Tunes shorts. They are so brilliantly constructed and clever. I could not shake the smile from my face at any time during this movie except when the plight of the characters made me do so. In my opinion, this film leaves the "Toy Story" films in the dust, not to mention most of the Disney catalogue. Sure, there are a lot of good animated films out there. But there are few that work on as many levels as this one. There are few that make me feel so completely like a kid again. Few that suck me so deeply into their world. And there are none that have ever made me rise to my feet and applaud at the end.

The arrival of "Chicken Run" is an occasion for rejoicing.