Chicken LittleReviewed By Collin Souter
Posted 11/07/05 15:30:11
I have to make this vow. I can’t take it anymore. It has to stop. So help me God, if I have to hear “I Will Survive” in any movie ever again, I’m walking out. That’s it. No more. If that song comes on, I’m leaving the theater. Goodbye. You lost me. If that’s all the imagination your little movie can muster to try and get a cheeky, ironic laugh out of the audience, there’s nothing for us to say to one another. Honestly, can we please put a permanent ban on that song once and for all? While we’re at it, just as a preventive measure, can we do away with all things Pointer Sisters as well? Please? If for no other reason than I can stop trying to figure out how to segue from this rant into a review of Chicken Little?Sorry, but that’s how it has to start off. I saw Disney’s first post-Pixar foray into computer animation with the hope that I would see a movie created by a team of writers and animators that have learned a thing or two from the beloved creators of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, a team that did not want to embarrass their studio by showing complacency or lack of creativity. Sadly, Chicken Little takes too many easy ways out with a story that can’t decide if it wants to coast on down-home charm or science fiction adventure. It could have done both, but the writers don’t appear to have too much faith in their own creation.
The story starts out simple enough. The scrawny, pint-sized Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff) has a history for alarming the all-animal townsfolk with news that “the sky is falling.” His friends, a duck named Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack) and a pig named Runt (Steve Zahn) remain loyal and his father Buck (Garry Marshall) remains skeptical of Chicken Little’s ability to be successful at anything, especially baseball. Chicken Little proves him wrong on that count and all seems right with the world.
Then the sky falls. A mysterious transparent object falls into the hand of Little and his friends, along with a small, furry and inarticulate creature that looks like he belongs on the eraser end of a pencil. Soon, large mechanical creatures terrorize Little and his friends and now he must once again try to convince all the townsfolk that death is at hand. But, of course, the movie is really about the father-and-son bond between Chicken Little and Buck Cluck (why they don’t have the same last name remains a mystery to me).
Chicken Little certainly doesn’t represent the nadir of CG animated movies (that honor belongs to Shark Tale). The characters supply almost enough charm to make the messy storyline go down smoothly. Braff helps make Chicken Little a very cute and sympathetic protagonist and Garry Marshall is an inspired choice to play his father. In fact, Disney should be proud of the fact that their movie relies little on star power and personality to carry the material, unlike the folks at DreamWorks who practically salivate over the idea of putting WILL SMITH or BEN STILLER on all their posters.
Unfortunately, there’s little in the way of great material here to be carried. Too often, the movie goes for the obvious: Unimaginative pop culture references, boring music cues (REM’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It” as the aliens invade) and ham-fisted sentiment accompanied by cavity-producing, Oscar-groveling Best Song nominees. Pixar wouldn’t be caught dead resorting to these devices and that’s why so much rides on the success of this film, at least as far as Disney’s shareholders are concerned. Undiscriminating kids will likely enjoy it, but in the long run it will have a short lifespan, at least until after the straight-to-video sequel comes out.Disney has also utilized a questionable marketing gimmick by running a 3-D print at selected theaters, which is how I happened to see it. I can’t say the 3-D adds much. It’s neat, like most 3-D films tend to be, but unlike last year’s The Polar Express, there’s little to gain from the format. It feels like an afterthought, an idea brought about by sheer panic amongst the fearful suits at the Disney plantation. The numbers have yet to come in as I write this (opening day), but it almost seems like the powers-that-be figured if they took one of their lesser scripts (from the writers of Brother Bear) and just utilized CG instead of hand-drawn, they’d have a hit. It might work, but if they continue with this line of thinking, their standing as a creative force will most certainly NOT survive.
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