(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
Okay. Well. No point beating around the bush. Time to take my punishment like a mouse. Here goes.
ATTENTION INTERNET! CHICKEN LITTLE IS NOT THAT BAD! I REPEAT! CHICKEN LITTLE IS NOT THAT BAD! PLEASE ADJUST YOUR OPINIONS ON THE BADNESS OF CHICKEN LITTLE ACCORDINGLY!
DINOSAUR REMAINS SHIT!
THAT IS ALL!
Okay. Better make this quick.
The movie begins with Buck Cluck (Gary Marshall) saying that the story begins “Once Upon a Time” before nixing that idea as played out and suggesting we try something new…
He then tries a classic Disney storybook opening next before finally settling on just beginning in media res (look at me! look at me! I’m a movie critic!) with Chicken Little (Zach Braff) up in a clocktower ringing the schoolbell and screaming that the sky is falling. The town of Oakey Oaks is populated by talking animals which mumble mumble segue mumble brings us to the animation. It’s…pretty bad. No question. As I’ve said before, CGI just does not age well and the cracks are definitely showing here. Coupled with that, while there are a few interesting character designs here and there most of the background characters are terribly generic looking.
And yet, and yet…and yet. I have to admit that there’s something very appealing about it. Mostly it’s the way the characters move. This movie was directed by Mark Dindal who directed Emperor’s New Groove and some of the same cartoony energy is on display here. Anyway, so Chicken Little is ringing the bell and screaming that the sky is falling. This causes everyone to lose their shit and wreck half the town. He takes the townsbeasts to an acorn tree where he swears that a piece of the sky feel on his head. His dad, Buck, embarrassed by all the chaos his son’s created, tells everyone that it was probably just an acorn. Chicken is devastated that his father doesn’t believe him, and the story skips ahead one year. Chicken Little is now a social pariah, and they’re even making a movie about the Acorn Incident.
Chicken says he has a plan to make people forget about the Acorn Incident (which he probably should have come up with when the movie was still in pre-production so they could re-work the ending) but his dad just wants him to lay low and not bring attention to himself. I’ve seen a lot of people (Nostalgia Critic and TVTropes to name a few) who consider Buck to be the worst Dad in the Disney canon.
And sorry, no, I don’t think that’s fair. Maybe I just have sympathy for dads who don’t know what they’re doing and are in WAY over their heads (we meet on Tuesdays) but I don’t think Buck is a bad guy. I mean, sure, he could have been more supportive of his son during The Acorn Incident, but I actually read that as him trying to minimize the whole thing to protect Chicken. And as for not backing his son when he wants to take up baseball…guys, Chicken Little is literally the size of a milk bottle. He doesn’t want him to play baseball because he will get mashed into McNuggets. Cut the big chicken some slack, is what I’m saying. Buck leaves Chicken Little into town and tells him to just be sane, for Christ’s sake, and drives off. Chicken Little misses the schoolbus and has to run to school, dodging various obstacles to the tune of Bare Naked Ladies’ One Little Slip. This scene basically shows us everything we need to know about Chicken Little, he’s unlucky, but also smart and resourceful, using whatever’s handy to overcome his tiny size. He even uses a flower to climb up a pole to reach a traffic light signal a lá Mulan.
He arrives late to school and misses his mutton language class which is being given by Mr Woolensworth (Patrick Stewart).
So here’s where we meet most of our supporting cast. After the Acorn Incident (and the more I say it the more it sounds like a 70s political thriller starring Robert Redford) Chicken Little’s only friends are the class rejects. There’s Abbey Mallard (Joan Cusack), an ugly duckling with a secret crush on Chicken, Runt of the Litter, a massively obese pig voiced by Steve Zahn and Fish Out of Water, a fish who has to go around with a diving helmet full of water on his head at all times. Runt’s a big steaming pile of irritating but Cusack is actually really charming as Abbey Mallard and Fish…
I FREAKING LOVE FISH OUT OF WATER.
He’s just this daffy, happy-go-lucky little guy who has no idea what’s going on outside his helmet so he just makes up his own movie as he goes along. And his movie is AWESOME. Honestly, this little guy probably raised my final score five full points on his own.
We also meet the class bullies, Foxy Loxy and Goosey Loosey. Foxy is the school jock and while it’s certainly interesting that for once its a girl playing that role, other than that, she’s not really that memorable.
Abbey wants Chicken to confront his father over not sticking by him during the Acorn Incident (“In Washington DC, one man will risk it all for the truth.”) but Chicken instead decides that he’ll make his father proud by joining the baseball team. Chicken Little tells his Dad that he’s going to make him proud when he “hits that ball and go for a touchdown” and then says “That was a joke, Dad.”
Buck tries to dissuade Chicken Little from trying out for the baseball team and what you think of his actions here really depends on motive. If he’s just worried that Chicken’s going to embarrass him, then, yeah, he’s an asshole. But personally I see it as just wanting to protect his son from further disappointment. Compounding the problem, Chicken Little’s mother is dead (I know, dead mother in a Disney movie STOP PRESS!) and Buck just can’t be there emotionally for his son what with his obsessive quest to bring her killer to justice.
We then get a montage of Chicken Little training with his friends to get better at base ball, learning to catch the base ball with the big base ball glove and hit the base ball with the base ball stick. But the coach never lets Chicken Little play because his stats aren’t moneyball enough so he has to sit on the big bench. The base ball team get to the base ball finals and they are playing another base ball team who have scored just as many base balls so it is a tie base ball game. Chicken Little is the only player left so the coach has to put him up to the white square where they start running from and tells him to “take the walk”. Apparently this means that if Chicken Little does nothing they win the game (This is your national pastime? No wonder you’re all so fat.) But Chicken Little decides to swing the base ball bat stick and he misses the base ball but apparently it’s okay because you get three lives in base ball. He misses again but then he hits the base ball on the third because you have to hit the base ball on the third try for maximum dramatic effect. He then runs to the white square that he has to run to to score a base ball before the other base ball team gets there with the base ball to stop him. Chicken Little reaches the last white square and wins the game.
Alright, so Chicken Little is now a hero and his dad’s proud of him and it looks like every’s gravy (sorry, poor choice of words). Now, here’s where the movie pleasantly surprised me. I thought that Chicken Little would become one of the popular kids, forget his friends only to remember before the end who really stood by him through thick and thin and blah blah blah. But the movie doesn’t do that. In fact, the very next scene has Chicken Little getting ready to go to a party that’s being thrown for him by Abbey, Runt and Fish and in fact the four friends stick together throughout the rest of the movie, which I like.
Chicken Little realises that the aliens have come for their kid, and that the only way to save the town is to get Kirby to his folks ASAP. He tries to explain this to Buck, who only wants to get Chicken Little out of town until Chicken Little finally snaps and calls his dad out on never being there for him. This gets through to Buck, and he promises to support his son no matter what. Because being a good dad means going along with every insane, suicidal scheme that comes into your kids’ little malformed noggins. Chicken Little heads out into the battlezone to return Kirby to his parents, stopping only to get some sugar from Abbey.
Meanwhile outisde, the bodycount is already getting pretty high with Turkey Lurky and Foxy Loxy having been vaporised. With the help of Runt, Fish and Abbey, Chicken Little and Buck manage to get to the top of town hall, where the alien mothership is hovering. Chicken Little holds Kirby aloft, telling the aliens to stop the invasion and take their kid back.
Okay. Guys, I know what you’re thinking. The movie I watched before this was the worst cartoon ever made bar none. ANYTHING was going to seem better than this. You all think I’m just PTSD’d to fuck, don’t you? (I can hear you. I hear you through the wall. Whispering…). Well, I anticipated your reaction, so I used a control.
Yeah, so I was so surprised that I liked this movie as much as I did, that I sat down with my wife and watched it again. And sure enough, not only did it win her over by the end (and she went into this ready to tear it a new one, believe me) but I actually found myself liking it even more the second time. Little details I hadn’t noticed before, like the chicken wire in the windows of Chicken Little’s house, little touches like that. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great movie. It’s not a lost classic. It’s clearly been made for an even younger audience than is usual for Disney. But it’s a bright, harmless, occasionally funny, often quite charming little kids flick. It’s not fantastic, but the worst in the canon. No. Not even close. So…there you have it. I know you may disagree with me, but I know we can respect each other’s views and amicably come to an…