Chicken Run

SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE


On the chopping block. Mr & Mrs Tweedy have a roll call in the chicken pen ... will comeone lose their head today?
dir Peter Lord, Nick Park
scr Karey Kirkpatrick
voices Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall, Miranda Richardson, Imelda Staunton, Lynne Ferguson, Tony Haygarth, Phil Daniels, Benjamin Whitrow
Pathe-DreamWorks 00/UK 5 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
The guys at Aardman (home of Wallace & Gromit) took their time with their first feature film. And it shows. Chicken Run is a masterpiece, painstakingly animated using clay figures and astonishingly detailed sets, and held together by a script that's jammed full of wit, drama, romance and heart-stopping action. It's so much fun that you hate it to end.

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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READER REVIEWS

a few good hen"Everything you expect from Aardman Animations, Mel Gibson, Jane Horrocks and some very chubby chickens. We laughed from beginning to end, we adored the totally OTT ending, we loved the nod to James Bond, Star Trek and Steve McQueen, and will probably go and see it again next week just for fun. Rush along immediately to marvel at the technical complexity, the surreal script and the performances of those chickens - especially when they start to dance." --Jo C, West Sussex.

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall

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