Chicken Little (2005)
(Release Date: November 04, 2005)

You can't call me a quack or a Hack! I'm a CLUCK!

Aliens invade Motown Lovin' Egg Ranch!

The World's deep fried Critic!!!
J.C. Mašek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

During my senior year in High School I starred in an ensemble production known as "Story Theatre", which retold fables and fairy tales with a minimalist bend and a super-silly attitude. Among the many shorts we performed was another telling of "Chicken Little". All the usual suspects made their dutiful appearances as we ran around in circles in a solid line, blindly following the leader (there was an anti-Gulf-War director at the helm). There was Chicken Little o'course, Cocky Locky, Foxy Loxy... and I played "The Ass." I mean, seriously, you knew that was coming, right? Anyway, it's true! I swear by my tattoo. Ask anyone who saw that Captain Shreve High School performance who was still lucid and/ or sober. I don't remember getting a review for my performance, except for the overheard comment as the cast and I were rushing out into the lobby of "Okay, that was stupid!"

I'm still not over that!

But anyway... occasionally I (who is the Ass) considered, as we marched about in implied war protest, the possibility that Chicken Little might have been right, and the sky might just have been falling. Actually, I was dating one of the actresses in the play, secretly, so I was mostly thinking about her.

I'm over that.
Didn't I TELL you I was the ASS?

Disney's first major post-Pixar Computer Animated release boldly steps up to the plate and asks that very question of "What if Chicken Little was Right?". Little, as played by that SCRUB, Zach Braff, is a wolf-crier from way back. Home dude has offered up more incendiary false reports than Fox News! The trouble is that they might just not be so false, especially when our diminutive hero starts clamoring about town like a chicken with his... like a chicken, shouting about invading Aliens. It probably doesn't help that his imagination is bigger than that of Fox News... and it might not help that he's wearing a pair of shorts made out of his math homework.

What follows is a big bucket of breaded silliness as little Little's friends Fish Out of Water (Dan Molina), Foxy Loxy (Amy Sedaris) and Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn who only seems to show up on this site as a talking animal) all propel the little guy toward his inevitable discovery. Unfortunately, that discovery isn't quite worth the wait. Oh, it's incredibly cute. Incredibly. That little chicken is adorable. But cute doesn't equal smart, and this film, while fun, will appeal more to the "Barney and Friends" crowd than those used to a more layered laugh track.

Pixar has a way of building Disney movies that are kid friendly, but not insulting to the moms, dads, grandparents and teens that accompany said kidlets. Chicken Little is an example of an attempt in that direction that doesn't quite break that finish line ribbon. There are some stabs at more mature jokes here, there and everywhere, and make no mistake, there are some undeniably funny moments for young and old. However, there is also the tendency to belabor every good joke and stretch the three-page fable out into a full 81 minutes. From constant singing of Motown songs (what is this a period piece?) to the reliance on slapstick and naughtiness, this flick has the bondo appearance of a due-diligence exercise that tries just a little too hard.

To distract us from this one-act play's shortcomings we're given more cameos than a medallion shop. Who we talkin' 'bout? Garry Marshall, Don Knotts, Patrick Stewart, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Patrick Warburton and even Adam West! Meanwhile every actual voice actor is outside in old clothes selling pencils for pennies.

However, in spite of Chicken Little's knack for epitomizing the problems with current kids movies, I can't completely lambaste it. It gets a lot of laughs some times, and, again, it's very cute. Some of the filler material is even rather cleverly inspired. Sure director Mark Dindal and writers Robert L. Baird, Steve Bencich and Dan Gerson hunt, scratch and peck quite a lot, but occasionally they do yank up that proverbial worm. Besides, while they might not quite be Pixar, the animation here is pretty gosh darned fantastic.

Occasionally I might look back at those photos from Story Theatre and muse back upon my past. I think about how many stories I have and how many tales I have to tell to my daughter and, possibly all of America. Then I realize that I've just been watching too many reruns of The Wonder Years, and in all honesty, I really was... quite an Ass! But, I was also The Little Peasant, man! Sigh. Guess I'll have to get by with a little help from my friends. The past is a mixed bag anyway. So is Chicken Little, hence its rating of Three Stars out of Five. Personally, I'll watch anything with Zach (or just his voice) in it, and that's what Disney's banking on. If they can get the Garry, Don, Patrick (S.), Joan, Wallace, Harry, Fred, Catherine, Patrick (W.) and Adam fans too, then they'll defy gravity in that top ten for a while. Even little chickens can flap those wings. But if Disney keeps pushing animation this far, this fast in this direction, maybe the sky really is falling. The next reel is certainly spinning still, though, so I'll see you in it next time. What can I say... I still love Chicks!

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Chicken Little (2005) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III who is Totally responsible for his own opinions, but only half responsible for the prank calls he and John Shultz made to the "Gross Egg Ranch". Turns out it means twelve dozen.
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