[box cover]

Chicken Little

For the time being, mainstream cel animation in America is passé. With the successes of Pixar and DreamWorks, one might think that old-school, hand-drawn animation is a thing of the past, since Walt Disney Studios (the progenitor of feature-length animation) is now pursuing computer animation with such films as 2005's Chicken Little. But it isn't the advance of technology that's rendering cel animation obsolete, it's the assembly-line way Disney has turned their most beloved artform into "product." After the successes of The Little Mermaid in 1989, and 1991's Oscar nominated Beauty and the Beast, The Mouse House made sure to release at least one animated film a year. And it's not that Mulan, or Pocahontas, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or Hercules, or Treasure Planet, or Home on the Range were so awful — it's that they were not classics, and the effort to make them as such wasn't there. It has fractured the goodwill of parents who used to trust the Disney logo with providing great entertainment for their children, something they've continued to disregard by sequelizing some of their most beloved properties (witness Bambi II). Alas, even rendered on the computer, Chicken Little is not going to change minds about the Disney label (Pixar is the new Disney) — it only proves that their animation studio is in a midlife crisis, trying to dress and act like companies a fourth of their age with half of the results. Zach Braff stars as Chicken Little, who begins the film by thinking the sky is falling, only for the entire community — including his father Buck Cluck (Gary Marshall) — to laugh in his face. A year later, a movie is being made about his folly, and he still gets picked on mercilessly. His only friends are Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn), and Fish out of Water. After winning a school baseball game Chicken Little is back in the good books, but when the sky actually falls on him, a portent of alien invasion, he's scared of making the same mistake twice. Partly inspired by the flippant, pop-culturally aware attitude epitomized by the Shrek films (which owe their sensibilities to Warner's Looney Tunes), a movie like Chicken Little can't compete, coming across as malnourished at best. There's a reasonably good story about parental trust at the heart of the script, with Chicken feeling ignored by his dad and unable to communicate, but with a very choppy narrative (even at a scant 81 minute running-time), it comes across as a rush of ideas with no real focus. As a kid's film, Chicken Little is passable, not so much bad as misguided, and unclear on how to accomplish its goals. But when standing next to the shoulders of giants, it feels insignificant, unremarkable. The most notable thing about it is that it features one of Don Knotts' final roles. Buena Vista Home Entertainment presents Chicken Little on DVD in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras include a "making of" spot (18 min.), deleted scenes with introductions (13 min.), two music videos, a karaoke and sing a-long version of the song "One Little Slip," a trivia game, and bonus trailers. There's also a "fastplay" option, which starts automatically offering parents the chance to just let the thing play. Keep-case.
—DSH



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