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Chicken Run

Rated [G], 83 minutes
Starring Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha and Miranda Richardson
Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick
Based on the story by Peter Lord and Nick Park
Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park

Aardman Animations, the British clay-animation studio who created a cult sensation (and won three Academy Awards) with their short subjects featuring Wallace and Gromit, present their first feature film, a mixture of comedy and adventure. Mrs. Tweedy (voice of Miranda Richardson) operates a chicken farm, where most of the birds have resigned themselves to a short and uneventful life, ending up as either the main course of someone's Sunday dinner or chicken pie, no less. But when Rocky (voice of Mel Gibson), a rooster from America, arrives on the farm, things begin to change. Rocky soon finds romance with the farm's self-appointed, idealistic chief hen, Ginger (voice of Julia Sawalha), and together they devise a plan to escape to freedom. Well, she does the devising at any rate.

What a joy it is to see a film, which is as abundantly rich in originality, humour and intelligence, as Chicken Run. Here is a truly remarkable piece of movie making that is one of the cleverest films around, and certainly a work that doesn't cater for the lowest common denominator. The ingenious directors, Nick Park and Peter Lord, have outdone themselves, proving that for this pair of Bristol-based animators, there's a world beyond Wallace and Gromit. Their first feature is an energetic, fast-talking, witty satire on postwar British society. It's a film that takes great pleasure in satirising The Great Escape and Stalag 17, with this conglomeration of chickens doubling as POWs. Part Animal Farm and part Hogan's Heroes, Chicken Run is pure inventiveness with sly dollops of dark humour. As with DreamWorks' stunning Antz of last year, Chicken Run is a story about the individual beating the odds within an often-nihilistic environment. For that reason, this is no children's movie, but something that goes beyond the bounds of conventional animation.

On a purely technical level, Chicken Run is a masterpiece. What these filmmakers have achieved using their own blend of plasticine, has to be seen to be believed. Characters have been indelibly created, and attention to detail on all facets of the characters, is sublime, from eyes and facial expression, to the physical attributes that individualise each of the characters. Vocal work on the film is just as impressive. It's hard to imagine that Mel Gibson can deliver his best (and funniest) performance to date as Rocky the Yankee Rooster, but pull it off he does. At times sassy and fast-talking, as well as oddly humble, Gibson work this character to a dimensional whole, while the delightful Julia Sawalha makes for wistful but determined heroine. Many laughs are provided by a wonderful cast of voice talents, who provide wit and nuanced villainy to their respective roles (Miranda Richardson gives any Disney villain a run for her money).

Visually striking, Park and Lord beautifully create this chicken world and maintain a style reminiscent of British cinema of the fifties. Hilarious, exciting and adventurous, Chicken Run is a masterpiece of clay animation and Grade A entertainment. By the way, don't leave before the final credits, as the answer to an age old question is hilariously debated. Run, don't walk, to see these chickens. Movies don't come better than this.

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© 2000 Paul Fischer. All rights reserved.

The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.