The Tweedy egg farm looks suspiciously like Auschwitz with its rows of drab chicken coops, vicious guard dogs, a draconian commandant (aka Mrs Tweedy, voiced by Richardson) and a nosey guard (Mr Tweedy, voiced by Haygarth). Inside the "camp" Ginger (Sawalha) keeps dreams of freedom alive with her neverending escape scenarios, all the while living under the threat of the Tweedy's chopping block if they don't produce enough eggs. Then an errant rooster Rocky (Gibson) flutters into the farm, promising to teach the hens to fly over the fence. But they're racing against time, as Mrs Tweedy has just had a get-rich-quick idea: selling chicken pies!
The film sets its scene perfectly with hilarious attention to detail both in the settings and the characters. So by the time the action cranks up we've come to really care about these chickens! So we're right with them as the plot builds up to the action, which is real high-adventure stuff that keeps us on the edge of our seats even as we laugh at the continual stream of film references (WWII escape films mostly, but also Indiana Jones and even Star Trek). Everything about the film works perfectly. The design is a visual knockout--you wish you could explore the sets and take in all the little details. The characters are vivid, loveable, very funny and thoroughly engaging, each marked by little quirks (Horrocks' ditsy, always-knitting Babs is the scene-stealer) and drawing wonderfully on the Yorkshire setting. And there are too many clever directoral touches to catch in one viewing. In short: It's everything you could hope for from an Aardman feature. Except that next time, maybe, we can have Wallace and Gromit in it too.
[PG--some violence] 12.Jun.00
US release 23.Jun.00; UK release 30.Jun.00
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