Mel Gibson
Julia Sawalha
Miranda Richardson
Tony Haygarth
Jane Horrocks
Imelda Staunton
Benjamin Whitrow
Phil Daniels
Timothy Spall
Lynn Ferguson

Peter Lord
Nick Park



Time: 84 mins.
Rating: G
Genre: Animation/Comedy

I don't normally rush out to see animated movies, but I'm a big fan of Aardman Studios – the creators of Wallace and Gromit. It's a crap shoot whether or not they could make a feature length film that was as funny and interesting as their shorts. Certainly they have the talent to make it look cool, and it does, but it's harder to be funny and create a plot that can be stretched to 90 minutes. CHICKEN RUN is mainly a take-off of the war adventure THE GREAT ESCAPE, as an animated comedy. Amazingly, it works, even though the entire plot focuses on their escape attempts. The characters are pretty well developed, for an animated feature, and the tension is palpable. Will the chickens escape before they're converted into their cruel owners next money-making scheme? It's a question that gets answered in the most amusing and ingenious way.

Ginger (Julia Sawalha) is the ringleader of the coop. Always plotting to reach paradise, to feel the cool grass of freedom under her feet. She's going to keep attempting to escape or die trying. Mr. Tweedy, the farm's owner knows the chickens are up to something, but his wife, the cruel and unforgiving Mrs. Tweedy (Richardson) thinks he's terminally stupid. Chickens don't plot and scheme. Tired of being a poor egg farmer, she's going to make them rich if it kills her.

Rocky the Flying Rooster (Gibson) gives the hens hope when he gets trapped behind the fence by accident. Ginger agrees to hide him in exchange for Rocky teaching them how to fly. Hilarity ensues as the chickens prepare to escape before the pie making machine goes into production. The road to freedom is never easy, but eventually the spirit and ingenuity of the chickens gives them flight...literally. Gibson and Sawalha are wonderful as Rocky and Ginger. Mel gives Rocky a honest sweetness and charming swagger, though Ginger is the heart of the film. Julia makes her intelligent, endearing and plucky. You can't help but be swept up in her quest to be free. Richardson oozes pure evil as Mrs. Tweedy, which makes you truly scared for the chickens future.

"Ginger: "We die free or we die trying."
Babs: "Are those the only choices?""

The supporting cast, especially the black market rats, the always knitting clueless Babs, and the blustery Bunty round out this crazy and lovable cast of characters. The film has enough physical comedy to keep the young ones involved and witty one-liners to make you laugh as well. It's a heartwarming story that shouldn't be taken too seriously. As a parody of THE GREAT ESCAPE, it's truly brilliant, using both a take off of that film's famous score and escape sequences to add depth and humor to the piece. The villains are a bit one-dimensional, but they're not the characters you really care about anyway.

The animation is unusual and adds to the hilarity. I found the stop-motion technique a bit hard to watch at first, but once you get used to it, it's truly amazing. The care and patience needed to render these clay creatures frame by frame makes my head hurt with exhaustion. The fact that they're able to portray so many different emotions and expressions is a marvel to behold. It's a perfect marriage of creation between voice and model to bring these inanimate characters to life. As a way of comparison, CHICKEN RUN isn't as funny as TOY STORY, but better than TOY STORY 2. In this case, you get what you pay for – a comedy that's clever, witty and sometimes downright silly. Personally, I'm looking forward to Aardman's next animated feature.

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