Film Commentary [7-4-00]
Clucking great film - - Chicken Run
Genre: Animated/Comedy
Grade = A+

Several years ago on a flight to London I was lucky enough to see a short animated feature called The Wrong Trousers featuring Wallace, a British eccentric inventor and his long suffering and much smarter dog Gromit. It was a work of outstanding genius from claymation animator Nick Park. It won the 1993 Academy Award for Best Short Animated Film. Over the course of the next few years I managed to see his other short works, including the first Wallace and Gromit filmA Grand Day Out, which lost the Academy Award to his other film Creature Comforts and the third Wallace and Gromit film A Close Shave which also won the Academy Award. All these films are incredibly well written, acted, directed and animated comedies of wit and intelligence. Now Nick Park and Aardman Animation bring us their first full-length motion picture.

Chicken Run takes place on Mrs. Tweedy's chicken farm in mid-1950s Britain. The chickens must lay eggs every day otherwise they have their heads chopped off and are eaten by Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson - Queenie of Blackadder II, Empire of the Sun and Sleepy Hollow) and Mr. Tweedy (Tony Haygarth - A Private Function) who much to his wife's disdain believes that the chickens are organized and plotting against them. The chickens are lead with considerable pluck by hen Ginger (Julia Sawalha - the daughter on Absolutely Fabulous) who is constantly plotting escapes for herself and the other chickens. She is aided by the dim witted Babs (Jane Horrocks - the dim witted receptionist on Absolutely Fabulous), inventor Scottie Mack (Lynn Ferguson), Bunty (Imelda Staunton) and the elderly RAF veteran rooster Fowler (Benjamin Whitrow). She trades feed to two rats for parts who constantly complain that their compensation is ‘chicken feed'. All escape attempts fail miserably and Ginger always ends up in solitary confinement (the coal bin).

As all the other hens are about to give up on their escape attempts, an American red island rooster named Rocky (Mel Gibson) drops into the farm from the sky. He is a famous ‘flying' rooster who just escaped from the circus and is the typical know-it-all American whom all the other hens swoon over. The circus owner comes looking for him and Ginger agrees to hide him if he will teach all the other chickens how to fly. He soon has all the hens practicing tai-chicken and various other exercises. Meanwhile, Mrs. Tweedy is sick of making minuscule profits with her eggs and luckily for her, she happens across a pamphlet which asks "Sick of Making Minuscule Profits?" Mrs. Tweedy decides to modernize and invests in a chicken pie making machine - chickens go in, pies come out. Now all the chickens are going into the pot and they must escape soon or else.

This film is a parody of many great World War II escape films including Stalag 17 (their hen house is No. 17), The Colditz Story and of course best one ever made - The Great Escape. Ginger even bounces a ball against the wall when stuck in solitary. The series of escape attempts echo these films and you can almost hear The Great Escape theme music over the action.

This film has all the wit and humor of its creator's previous works. The animation is fabulous with Park's genius in making the proper facial expressions on his subjects to express their emotions. Although it is rated G, its intelligence does not limit its appeal to children. Any adult will enjoy this colorful story with ingenious characters and distinctive style. This is by far the best film of the year so far.

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