Chicken Little

Strategically, Chicken Little is extremely important for Disney. It is their first in-house CGI film. Conventional wisdom says that hand-drawn animation is dead, replaced with CGI. Conventional wisdom is wrong. While CGI does look amazingly beautiful, it is the underlying story that is important. Regardless, Disney is jumping into the fray. They need to prove they can make a successful CGI film because of a little company called PIXAR. The two companies are still in the process of trying to mend their relationship, and the success or failure of Chicken Little could determine who gets the upper hand. Well, looks like PIXAR wins another one.

Disney inadvertently proves that story is the most important element of a film. Chicken Little looks great. The characters are rendered nicely, and it looks like there are millions upon millions of feathers on the chicken characters in the film. The overall effect is above average. It is not as good as PIXAR or PDI's (i.e. Dreamworks) output, but is not something to be ashamed of. The story is something completely different. Chicken Little is missing a story. This film has a half hour's worth of story stretched to nearly ninety minutes. The screenplay, by Steve Bencich and Ron Friedman (Brother Bear), with additional story material by Robert Baird and Dan Gerson (Monsters, Inc.) has modest aspirations at best.

The story that exists is not too exciting. Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff, Garden State, The Broken Hearts Club) is trying to forget the unfortunate incident last year where he thought a piece of the sky fell on his head. He became the laughingstock of Oakey Oaks. His father Buck Cluck (voiced by Garry Marshall, The Long Ride Home, Orange County) cannot relate to him. Cluck favors sports, while Little is smart and inventive, and horrible at sports. Worse, Cluck didn't believe Little last year about the sky, which really hurt Little emotionally. Now, something odd is happening again. Little and his friends Runt of the Litter (voiced by Steve Zahn, Sahara, Shattered Glass) and Abby Mallard AKA Ugly Ducking (voiced by Joan Cusack, Ice Princess, The Last Shot) need to figure out what it is, and warn the town despite the fact that Little has no credibility.

The first half is a parade of sight gags and jokes. They run from very subtle (a bull in a china shop) to very overt. This part of Chicken Little feels a lot like Home on the Range, a film that just wanted to make people laugh. But it feels like director Mark Dindal (The Emperor's New Groove, Cats Don't Dance) is trying too hard. He wants to fill the screen with as many jokes as possible, and worse, takes the Shrek route and inserts many jokes that will probably lose meaning as the years pass. This has the misfortune of taking away the timelessness of Chicken Little. There are some funny parts, but nothing too memorable. In a few years it will feel dated. The second half turns into a loud homage to War of the Worlds. The emotional core of the film comes from the mending of the father/son relationship, but this feels clunky and forced. So Disney's first CGI film? Mediocre at best. It looks like they should have finalized a contract with PIXAR before the release of Chicken Little.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 21 minutes, Rated G.

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