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CHICKEN LITTLE (article first published : 2005-11-20)

Chicken Little was supposed to have been the big Disney challenge to the computer-animation experts at Pixar studios with which Disney has now severed links and also a new benchmark for that other mighty competitor, the Dreamworks studio, which gave us the Oscar-winning Shrek and its successful sequel.

Sadly, the once mighty house of Mickey Mouse has come up with an offering even more inferior than its lacklustre Sinbad and Atlantis and, methinks, will have to hand over its crown if it keeps hitting the skids.

Chicken Little, directed by Mark Dindal and running just 77 minutes but even then seeming a little long, is not without charming moments (a scene involving lemmings is a good chuckle). But the story is lame, the animation quite unremarkable and the whole totally uninspired, with parodies of pop songs coughed up at every opportunity to prop up a sagging storyline.

The plot is little more than a twist on the old child's fable – Chicken Little tries to make his name good after embarrassing himself and his popular widower dad, Buck Cluck, by frightening everyone into thinking the sky was falling. In reality, it was only an acorn that had bonked Chicken Little on the head.

Voiced by Zach Braff of television's Scrubs, Chicken Little sidles with other misfits - The Runt of the Litter, a nerdy ninny of a pig hooked on Barbra Streisand and voiced by Steve Zahn; The Ugly Duckling, Abby Mallard (voiced by the inimitable Joan Cusack); and The Fish Out of Water, a goofy goldfish in an old-fashioned diving helmet, that does little more than gargle and grin.

When one day Chicken Little, his beady eyes under large green glasses, discovers a part of the sky really does fall on to his head, he has to think twice about reporting the news for fear of further humiliation – but when an alien invasion is threatened and he gets help from his pals and, eventually, his father, the tiny fowl in a flap realises he has to sound the warning bell.

That, in a nutshell, is the plot, which is lent padding with characters breaking into versions of The Spice Girls' Wannabe and Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive and also features other songs, such as renditions of REM's It's the End of the World As We Know It and Art Garfunkel's All I Know.

No great shakes. Drop the under-nine’s off but treat yourself to something else. Anything else. – Billy Suter




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