CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET Review: No Chicken Is An Island

Aardman Animations makes its return to theaters, courtesy of Netflix, looking modern with the same classic sense of humor.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET Review: No Chicken Is An Island

This time, it's a farm break-in.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
The film opens Friday, December 8, in select theaters in Vancouver, Montreal, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, ahead of its debut Friday, December 15, on Netflix .

It's a bit disconcerting to see Aardman's beloved chickens, which have typified the quintessential farm animals in modern animated comedy, breaking into a fancifully sterile, cold-steel factory, meant to "process" chickens into nuggets for eventual fast-food consumption.

Then again, aren't creators allowed to place their creations into new and possibly incongruous settings?

First springing to my attention in the early 1990s through their marvelous short films popping up on television, by 2000 I was more than ready to see their first feature film, Chicken Run, a crackerjack adventure comedy with clear references to John Stuges The Great Escape (1963), one of my all-time favorite films.

With the passage of more than 20 years, writers Karey Kirkpatrick, John O'Farrell and Rachel Tunnard, together with director Sam Fell (Flushed Away, 2006; The Tale of Despereaux, 2008; ParaNorman, 2012) have cooked up a new adventure that begins soon after the original, locating its protagonists on the same island getaway, where they have made lives for themselves, safe and far away from the horrors of their farming existence.

Ginger (now voiced by Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (now voiced by Zachary Levi instead of Mel Gibson) have raised their child Molly (Bella Ramsey, of The Last of Us fame) on the island, without any knowledge of the outside world. Dangers are lurking, of course, and that leads to another adventure that requires a great escape, not from the confines of a farm, but a corporate endeavor to make chicken nuggets a mainstay at fast-food restaurants throughout the world.

The primary action takes place at the factory, far from the cozy confines of the island or of the original farm, but chickens are chickens, and the humor remains consistent: dry, spry, and very British. Aardman can thus focus on its characters, a wonderful melange of kooky and daft animals who are always cheerful, bright, and pleasant in their dealings with each other and even with their adversaries; they always endeavor to look on the bright side.

The Aardman animators do their best to keep the chickens at the forefront of the story, none more so than Ginger and Molly, a great pairing of a mother and daughter who are alike in their lively spirit and love of adventure. Naturally, Ginger is now more risk-averse than in her younger days, before Molly came along, while Molly inevitably reminds her of herself, as others are wont to point out.

This makes Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget eminently suitable for family viewing, along with the movie's wise decision to keep Rocky as a supporting player only, occasionally handy when he doesn't need reassurance. One of the things I appreciate about Aardman Animations is their willingness to spread good comic lines of dialogue among their supporting cast, which feels like the antithesis of Hollywood studio animation, which tends to focus on casting big stars, no matter their suitability to create characters solely through their voices.

Thandiwe Newton easily plays a mother hen (ahem!) with a great fighting spirit, matched with Bella Ramsey, who brings the younger chicken's bold curiosity out. The film is a consistent delight and should inspire youngsters to enjoy multiple viewings, especially after it arrives on Netflix.

On the big screen, it should look quite spectacular. Go and bask in the superiority of Aardman Animations to all else that dares to animated movie theater screens this week.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

  • Sam Fell
  • Karey Kirkpatrick
  • John O'Farrell
  • Rachel Tunnard
  • Thandiwe Newton
  • Zachary Levi
  • Bella Ramsey
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Aardman AnimationsBella RamseyNetflixThandiwe NewtonZachary LeviSam FellKarey KirkpatrickJohn O'FarrellRachel TunnardAnimationAdventureComedy

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