Published on February 10th, 2006 | by Paul Greenwood0
Cast: Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Adam West, Patrick Stewart
For some reason or other, just about everyone I’ve spoken to recently has never heard the story of Chicken Licken. It is (or at least I thought it was) a well known fable about mob mentality that the Americans know as Chicken Little and it’s now been turned into a major computer animated release by Disney.
One year after his infamous “The sky is falling” routine, Chicken Little (Braff) is still a pariah around town, with he and his equally unpopular friends Abby (Cusack) and Runt (Zahn) picked on constantly by the cooler dogs and foxes. But Chicken Little’s biggest problem is his relationship with his father (Marshall), who tries to be supportive but in reality is just as doubtful of his son as everyone else is.
Even when Little becomes an unlikely baseball hero and finally finds acceptance, communication with his dad is still difficult. But when another piece of the sky comes crashing into his bedroom, Chicken Little decides enough is enough and people are going to have to start trusting him. So is there a real threat to the town or is he just the chicken who cried wolf?
Whereas recent stinkers like Robots, Shark Tale and Madagascar relied on stunt casting and big set pieces, Chicken Little is almost old fashioned in comparison. The design is pleasingly retro and there’s even an early flirtation with Tex Avery zaniness which disappointingly doesn’t last. There are echoes of the son/single parent dynamic from Finding Nemo, an accusation not helped by Marshall’s casting, his nasal tones easily recalling Albert Brooks. But it’s far from a rip-off and, though it looks like it might be irretrievably doomed with a bizarre and unexpected turn into sci-fi and a heavier reliance on burp and pee-pee jokes, the ET meets War of the Worlds second half actually turns out to be part of the bigger picture and reinforces the film’s earlier themes.
So it’s got heart and it’s got style – what’s missing is laughs. Adults and nippers alike seemed distinctly untickled by a great deal of the action, with the slapstick not broad enough for the tots and the humour not clever enough for the parents, as incongruous Star Wars and King Kong gags fell flat. But the voice cast are a talented bunch and just about manage to paper over the cracks with their skills. Disney may not be 100% sure yet how to do it without Pixar, but they’re still a damn sight better than Dreamworks and Fox and the rest of the CGI pretenders.
Interview: Garry Marshall as Buck Cluck