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Rated 2.94 stars
by 1537 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
by Betty Jo Tucker

Using the term "chicken-hearted" for cowardly behavior will no longer be tolerated. Not after watching the brave chickens of Tweedy’s Yorkshire Egg Farm hatch their daring escape plans in Chicken Run, the world’s first full-length movie in clay animation. Filled with heroism, humor and heart, this wonderful film is a treat for the entire family.

Who are the movie’s plucky heroes? First and foremost, there’s Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha), the leader of the flock. A very intelligent chick, she could probably find a way out by herself but cares too much about all the others to desert them. Next, there’s Babs (Jane Horrocks), a compulsive knitter. She thinks the low egg-producing hens, taken to the chopping block by evil Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson), are simply "away on holiday." There’s also a Scottish chicken (Lynn Ferguson) with a flair for engineering, and a champion egg-layer (Imelda Staunton). An old rooster called Fowler (Benjamin Whitrow) completes the list of major conspirators --- but he spends most of his time crowing about his "good old days" in the RAF, so he’s not much help at first.

No matter how hard they try, nothing seems to work. Then, as if by magic, Rocky (Mel Gibson), a cocky rooster from America, drops into their lives and changes everything. He promises to teach them to fly. Just in time, too, for greedy Mrs. Tweedy plans on increasing her profits by becoming a chicken pie mogul instead of an egg farmer. Mr. Tweedy (Tony Haygarth), who suspects the chickens are up to something, can’t dissuade her. "Chickens don’t organize," she insists.

While the admiring hens fall for Rocky’s fast-talking scheme, Fowler remains skeptical. "You Yanks are always late for the war," the old rooster complains. Watching Rocky supervise the inmates’ pre-flight training, it’s easy to see why chickens can’t fly. Although performing vigorous, and sometimes hilarious, exercises, these unlikely aeronautical recruits never get off the ground under their own steam. However, a romance between Rocky and Ginger is in the air. Unfortunately, after Ginger discovers Rocky can’t fly, their romance suffers a crash landing. Although disappointed and heartbroken, Ginger takes charge of escape plans again. Motivating everyone to work together, she oversees the building of an amazing aircraft --- one that looks like a monster bird.

The expressive voices of actors doing key characters in Chicken Run contribute to its special charm. Gibson (Braveheart) gives Rocky an energetic Yankee accent that contrasts perfectly with the sweet British tones of Sawalha (Absolutely Fabulous) and Horrocks (Little Voice) as Ginger and Babs. Among the film’s many other delights are a wild ride inside Mrs. Tweedy’s gigantic pie-making machine, a rousing "Flip, Flop, Fly" musical number, and the comic antics of a pair of scavenger rats (voiced by Timothy Spall and Phil Daniels). In addition to all this fun, Chicken Run offers an important lesson about the value of freedom.

If the plot of this landmark movie seems a bit familiar, it should. With Ginger in the Steve McQueen role, this is a poultry version of 1963’s The Great Escape. Nick Park and Peter Lord (creators of Wallace and Gromit), who produced and directed Chicken Run, must be great fans of that earlier movie. Park says he once did a sketch of a chicken digging under a wire fence with a spoon. He claims that simple drawing started him thinking how funny it would be to have chickens as central characters in an escape film. He was right!

(Released by DreamWorks Pictures in association with Pathe/Aardman Productions and rated "G.")

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