Chicken Little (PG)
By Amy Diaz
Disney assaults you with sound, color and, of course, the tale of a boy
and his dad in Chicken Little, a post-Pixar animated feature.
Chicken Little (Zach Braff) is a large-headed young fowl who becomes the
laughingstock of his upwardly mobile suburbia when he claims to have
been hit on the head by a piece of the sky. His dad, Buck Cluck (a very
unnecessary Gary Marshall) doesn’t believe him and tells him to keep his
head down as the town wears itself out making fun of poor Chicken. Fast
forward a year and Chicken Little joins the baseball team in an attempt
to become known for something else and to make his father proud. Despite
his diminutive size and limited strength he does manage to score the
point that wins the big game, becoming the toast of the town. He
believes his sky-is-falling-troubles are all behind him until suddenly,
whomp, he is beaned by yet another piece of the sky.
What follows is a mishmash of War of the Worlds, Lilo & Stitch and every
afterschool special that included the words “I just want you to believe
in me, Dad.” We get requisite amounts of irony, sentiment, kidventures
and goofy slapstick.
to describe any given scene of Chicken Little? Picture a multicolored
clown yelling “AAAAARHHHHH!” in your face and then making some pop
culture reference out of the side of its mouth and then going “AAAAAARHHHHHH!”
again. The movie tires you out with attempts to fill every flaming scene
with wall-to-wall glee. I felt as though I were being forced to Have Fun
at a Disney theme park where I was required to laugh at the pre-approved
every 3-D cartoon can be Shrek. I truly wish someone would tell the
animators that. Shrek’s balance of humor (some for the kids, some for
the grown-ups) and sentiment (not too gooey, not too irony-laced) seemed
organic to its well-developed story of an ogre, his annoying donkey
friend and a slightly paranoid princess. The characters were
multi-faceted (not just three-dimensional in the visual sense) and the
dialogue felt fresh.
Chicken Little and a dozen Shrek-imitators before it, all the elements
that made DreamWorks’ tale a success seem to be applied with an eye to
marketing and no real sense of how or even whether these pieces make
sense in these new stories. Instead of, as in Chicken Little, filling
the screen with screechy sidekicks, why not spend the time developing
one truly entertaining one? Instead of throwing whiz-bang visuals into
the mix like handfuls of over-buttered popcorn, why not craft a good
story first and then augment it with a few truly dazzling effects?
not? Because making blockbusters that become family favorites and film
classics is hard but positioning another PG-rated kid-marketing product
to make $40 million in its opening weekend (only to slip away in the
following weeks) is easy. Chicken Little, the result of minimal effort
and maximum marketing, achieved that low-bar goal.