I am happy to see another G- rated movie come out so soon after the release of Wallace and Gromit. Unfortunately, this one isn’t nearly as good. My daughter thought that there were still “a lot of things to like about this movie,” and it seemed the kids in the crowded theater we attended liked it too.
Chicken Little is a young fellow, challenged by his very small size, whose life takes a turn for the worse when he gets hit on the head by something he believes is a part of the sky. After he sounds the alarm and nobody believes him, he is labeled a crackpot. The dilemma of not being believed about something important is a heartbreaking experience for many children, but the abrupt pacing of the first half of the movie makes it difficult to empathize with Chicken Little about this problem. He has little in common with his sports hero father and they struggle to connect, but then a cliché moment of glory on the local baseball team (achieved expressly by direct defiance of his coach) brings them together. Just as things seem to be moving in the right direction, he gets hit in the head by another pesky chunk of sky. It turns out that what really is happening is an apparent invasion by creepy spiderlike aliens, who really get angry when one of their offspring escapes from the spaceship to follow Chicken Little and his buddies. Things get wrapped up in a tidy fashion when our hero saves the day by returning the baby alien to his parents, and we discover that the aliens are really soft, furry creatures encased in creepy spiderlike machinery. They had never really meant any harm, but had only intended to stop on earth to gather nuts.
Chicken Little and his dad seem like derivatives of Foghorn Leghorn and his little chick companion in the Warner Bros. cartoons, and the other characters are generally forgettable. The exception, in my view, is Chicken Little’s giant porcine buddy “Runt of the Litter.” This fretful neurotic with a taste for disco and Barbra Streisand offers some quality comedy moments. Turkey the Mayor is pretty good, too, and is voiced by Don Knotts.
However, most of the efforts at comedy are based upon apparently youthful characters engaging in snappy dialogue one might expect from Eddie Murphy or Billy Crystal. One ‘bright’ spot in the frequently annoying soundtrack is a well-placed cover of Art Garfunkel’s “All I Know,” which helps one of the moments in the father and son struggle achieve a degree of tenderness.
The scenes of aliens shifting into weed-eater/helicopter devices and chasing the gang through a cornfield are fairly intense, but my six-year old only buried her head in my chest once, and this dimension of the movie seemed appropriate. There are no sexual references and only one (actually kind of funny) potty joke. The one moral message that comes through is that conflicts and animosities might be simple misunderstandings or misguidance.
I’m ambivalent about its use here, but of course it is a powerful idea. After all, even Darth Vader gets redeemed. However, what was probably meant to be the main message–children deserve to be taken seriously and fathers and sons should talk to each other–is vague and unconvincing in this story.
For this one, parents may want to draw straws for who takes the kids, or just wait for the video.
Review written by Norman Hale, M.D.
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