Published on November 7th, 2005 | by Erich Becker0
Review: Chicken Little
Chicken Little had a lot riding on it for Disney. After pushing back the planned fall 2005 release of Pixar’s Cars until summer 2006, the season’s only Disney released animated film was this CGI adventure. Unfortunately for the Mouse House, everyone is going to come away disappointed with this rather flat animated feature that fails to deliver the Pixar charm or the DreamWorks comedy. Chicken Little is a mostly harmless film that certainly won’t disappear due to Disney’s trademark over promotion of its films, but it won’t me remembered by many.
The title, in development for years, focuses on the old story of Chicken Little who cried out that the sky was falling. When it turned out to be nothing more than a hoax, the townspeople began to ignore the crazy little chicken’s claims until the one time he was right, and no one listened. The new Disney version mixes things up a bit by adding in space aliens in a War of the World‘s like farce that all boils down to a misunderstanding.
The trademark Disney notions of a dead mother, a misunderstood child, the odd-one out, and a cool character everyone can relate to are all present, but we’ve seen this story done a hundred times, and nearly half of them done better and with more life than this rehashed script. While the story comes up as short as the movie’s namesake character, the voice acting provided by an eclectic mix of stars gives the film its only life. Chicken Little is voiced by Zach Braff (Scrubs, Garden State) and his friends Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn), and Fish out of Water (Dan Molina) all have enough life to make them somewhat memorable.
The big exception here is Fish out of Water, in this creation, a fish with a diver’s helmet filled with water on his head, Disney has once again outdone itself and created a truly memorable character and easily one of their most creative and funny creations in years. Even though the fish never speaks a single line, his actions and personality are the shinning moment in this otherwise dim film.
This isn’t to say there isn’t anything to like about Chicken Little, there’s some comedy, but no where near the level Shrek was able to achieve by putting the classic tales that Disney made a fortune on through the blender. There’s maybe one or two laugh out loud moments in the entire film, but overall, and after some of the hilarious moments The Incredibles and Monsters, Inc. Disney really needs to raise the bar.
The CGI animation is top-notch, really the only part of the film that goes above and beyond what we’ve seen before in animated films. With most of the character’s being animals it leaves the animators and software designers to create lots of fur which moves pretty damn realistically in the lush environment. Another aspect which has a true touch of style is the character design and the world itself. The characters are over proportion in many aspects with big bodies and little legs. Chicken Little is ridiculously small whereas Runt is huge in comparison. The designs for vehicles are also distorted in the very same way and look somewhat akin to Rocko’s Modern Life.
Try as you might, there just isn’t a lot to get excited about Chicken Little. If it were 1995 again and Toy Story had just come out, and the closest other CGI movie ever released was Tron, the film would be something special and would more than likely be a hit merely for its technical achievements. But, like Disney’s ill-fated technical show Dinosaur, Chicken Little earns the dubious stripes of being better than Howard the Duck but no where near the quality we’ve come to expect from studios like DreamWorks Animation and Steve Job-headed Pixar Animation Studios.
After the reviews and box office results, Disney would be wise to give in to Pixar’s demands. If anything, at least they know they will be getting their name out on award winning material instead of digging up shallowly written stories and trying to adapt them for the 21st century.