A few years ago, while channel surfing, I came across a short animated
film that was composed of interviews with claymation animals about their
experiences in the zoo. I couldn't take my eyes off of it. The animal's
expressions were so well-animated and indicative of their mood that it
knocked me for a loop. I had to know who was responsible for it. Unfortunately,
a power outage cut my viewing short and I never got to see the credits.
Years later, I would find out that the film, called Creature Comforts,
was the work of Aardman Animation, who would win an Academy Award for
the piece and would later be responsible for Wallace and Gromit, two of
my favorite animated characters. This summer, they are responsible for
Chicken Run, their first full-length animated film.
Starring: The voices of Mel Gibson, Miranda
Richardson, and Julia Sawalha
Run documents the efforts of a clever hen named Ginger (voiced
by Julia Sawalha) and her friends as they try to escape the Tweedy Chicken
Farm. As the film opens, numerous methods of escape are attempted, but
all fail in one way or another. A key ingredient is missing. That ingredient
arrives in the form of Rocky the Flying Rooster (voiced by Mel Gibson),
who drops in on the farm unexpectedly. Ginger attempts to get Rocky to
teach the chickens how to fly so they can all escape before Mr. Tweedy
gets his chicken pot pie machine fully operational.
The film is definitely marketed for kids, but this movie is smarter than
your average kiddie fare. In fact, at the showing I attended, the adults
seemed to have a better time than the kids. The kids had a good time no
doubt, but I don't think they picked up on all of the references to other
movies, one-liners, subtle sexual innuendo, and the other treats included
in the film for adults to enjoy.
The animation is high-quality, with particular attention paid to facial
expressions. As in their previous films, Aardman's animators make it very
easy to forget you're watching stop-motion clay figures. They breathe
life into these characters and make it very easy for the viewer to suspend
disbelief. The voices, masterfully done by all involved, are the icing
on the cake. The characterizations are all Grade A quality. After watching
this film, you'll probably never look at a Kentucky Fried Chicken ad the
same way again.
Since this is a movie aimed at little kids, one would expect a lot of
musical numbers and a dumbed-down version of what actually happens on
a chicken farm. Thankfully, since this is a film from Aardman and not
Disney, there's one semi-musical number (a dance sequence that's quite
fun) and no pulling punches when it comes to what happens to chickens
that don't produce enough eggs. (One -- and only one -- chicken believes
that the chickens that disappear have gone on vacation. In a Disney movie,
they'd all believe it and try to get you to believe it too.)
Run is a marvelous movie for all ages. It moves at a good pace
for kids. It's got humor for kids AND adults. And, hey, it's got Mel Gibson.
How can you go wrong with that?
of the many movie references in Chicken Run include Star
Trek, The Shawshank Redemption, Stalag 17, and Braveheart. (Source: The
Internet Movie Database)