The first feature film to come out of the British studio Aardman Animations, Chicken Run tells the story of a farm full of chickens who will do anything to escape from the evil Mrs. Tweedy and her bumbling husband. After repeated attempts to go under the fence line, a cocky rooster (get it?), Rocky Rhodes, flies into the coop and seems to be their ticket out. Mrs. Tweedy, angered by the decline in egg production, decides to switch the farm over to chicken pie production instead, forcing the chickens to fast-track their escape plan in order to avoid going through the pie-making machine. Trouble for the chickens is Rocky is actually a circus rooster and can’t actually fly! How will they ever make it out before they join the ranks of Banquet and Mrs. Callender’s in the frozen food aisle?!
Loosely based on The Great Escape starring Steve McQueen, this ended up being the highest-grossing stop motion animated film of all time. Featuring the voices of pre-crazy Mel Gibson, Imelda Staunton (Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter), Timothy Spall (Wormtail in HP), and a slew of other British actors you’ve probably never heard of, Chicken Run is a delightful romp around the pen with delightful characters such as Ginger, the protagonist, who starts the movie in and out of “solitary confinement” for repeated escape attempts; and Rocky, the smug American who takes advantage of the chickens’ hospitality and faith in his abilities to save their very necks. Meanwhile the ol’ Mrs. Tweedy hates all the chickens, despises Mr. Tweedy and his worthless chicken farm, and will stop at nothing to make a profit. Two mice, Nick and Fletcher, provide comic relief, acting as a sort of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets, commenting on their training and flying attempts with puns and jokes that actually make you chuckle.
There are a couple moments that might be a little scary for little ones – mostly the ax-wielding Mrs. Tweedy, but for the most part it’s not too serious. It may also inspire kids to try to fly, so just have them put the couch cushions on the floor first before takeoff. It’s funny, cute, and the animation is very impressive, especially considering this came out 15 years ago. At 84 minutes, it’s a great little film to throw on to distract the kiddies for a few minutes while you floss or clean the gutters or whatever it is that grown ups do in their free time.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Snack Packs
Lincoln L. Hayes used to write for the Holyoke Enterprise back in the day. He now lives in Vermont where he continues to pursue an acting and filmmaking career. He made a Star Wars video that the Internet seems to like. Find it at http://www.lincolnlhayes.com.
*Update: published in the Holyoke Enterprise March 31, 2016