Chicken Little
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Mark Dindal
scr Steve Bencich, Ron J Friedman, Ron Anderson
voices Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn, Amy Sedaris, Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Wallace Shawn, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Harry Shearer, Adam West
release US 4.Nov.05, UK 10.Feb.06
05/US Disney 1h21

Look to the skies: Abby, Runt and Chicken Little

braff cusack zahn

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Chicken Little A strange mistake for Disney: an animated film unlikely to appeal to anyone--too stupid for adults, too convoluted for small children, and full of references that'll be lost on anyone in between. At least it's lively and colourful, so easily distracted viewers will be fine.

A year after his notorious "the sky is falling" incident, Chicken Little (voiced by Braff) is still humiliated, especially since his father (Marshall) wouldn't believe him. His friends are the class outcasts--ugly duckling Abby (Cusack), camp fatty Runt (Zahn), gurgling Fish Out of Water. Then just as he finally proves himself, the sky starts falling again. Maybe Dad will finally believe him when an all-out alien invasion begins.

Yes, the story lurches suddenly from school comedy to War of the Worlds mayhem. Characters have sudden changes of heart for no apparent reason, or do horrible things only to be instantly forgiven in a moment of wrenching sentimentality. And they aren't defined beyond obvious physical issues until the plot needs something from them, and even then it's completely random.

In other words, it's impossible to get a handle on these characters, especially without distinctive voice work. This isn't the actors' fault; the script gives them nothing to work from, merely dashing to the first cheap gag or another obscure (to anyone under 20) movie or music reference. O'Hara and Willard are hilarious--and irrelevant--as an alien married couple. And Cusack manages to inject some spark into her role, although Abby is so grotesque that we never warm to her (I doubt her figures will sell out at the Disney Store).

The design is intriguingly outrageous, packed with quirky shapes and lots of movie references. But it's technically extremely sub-par. It looks like a draft version, before the feathers and liquids and other surfaces were properly rendered. In other words: the entire film looks and feels like an extended episode of a TV cartoon. There are moments of sharp wit and visual genius that keep us watching, but it never really takes off. And it's extremely forgettable.

cert U themes, vulgarity, suspense 27.Nov.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Chicken Little Rob Quiring, Quito: "It is worth seeing with a child. We delightfully enjoyed it. It has enough wonderful voices (Patrick Stewart is my pick for language teacher of the year) to make it a rich listening experience. Its use of pop tunes has appropriateness (I see this in the students in my classroom who are iPodded and discManded on their way to and from school) and the plot turns are wonderful. Probably it won't all hold up on a second viewing. Go and enjoy." (4.Nov.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall