Making the Grades
The sky is falling? According to Chicken Little (Zach Braff), a chunk of blue has hit him on the head, so he rings the town emergency bell and sends a herd of critters (all the residents of this community are animals) running in every which direction. However, when the dust and debris settle, there is no evidence of anything from above lying down below.
Embarrassed with his boy's strange behavior, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall)--who still enjoys some notoriety from his school days as a star baseball player -- does his best to make little of the situation, but his tactics are ineffective. A year later, the legend of Chicken Little and the falling sky is not only the standing joke of the area, it has also become the centerpiece of a new movie that pokes fun of the "crazy little chicken."
Needless to say such negative vibes weigh heavily on the little hatchling. At school, he does his best to hold his own with his other "loser" friends--Abby "The Ugly Duckling" Mallard (Joan Cusack), a pig named Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn), and "Fish Out of Water" (Dan Molina) who travels around with a water-filled diver's helmet over his head. Yet even together, they are no match for the popular crowd, headed by Foxy Loxy (Amy Sedaris)--a girl who shines at everything... especially baseball.
Wanting desperately to prove himself to both his friends and his disconsolate father, the chick seizes a long shot opportunity to redeem himself on the diamond. After an impeccably improbable series of errors, Chicken Little saves the game--and his reputation. Finally life is good... until another chunk of stratosphere hits the dirt.
Opening up with a fun premise and lively pacing, the film cracks some funny lines. As well, the highly detailed visual backgrounds will be sure to keep audiences busily searching the DVD release for more inside jokes. Unfortunately, the idea only takes flight for a short while before the script makes a nosedive. Despite a lot of scratching and pecking to dig up some forced humor, the attempt to keep young and old (and every other demographic in between) engaged in the story actually has the opposite effect.
That means your 5-year-old may get a little scared when the aliens attack, while the simplistic plot might bore your 16-year-old. Much like Disney's Valiant from earlier this year, Chicken Little suffers from having protagonists of no fixed age. It is difficult to bond to a hero who barely seems ready for grade school at one point, and then the next is behaving like a teenager. The plot ails from similar confusion. Is it a kids' movie? A sci-fi? Or an adult parody of a dozen other movies children will likely never recognize? Try all of the above.
Thankfully, other content concerns are limited, although a remark about sending video footage to Chickens Gone Wild and a conversation using various derivatives for urination may raise some parents' eyebrows. Also, grown-ups in this movie are truly inept--including a teacher who encourages the kids to focus their dodge ball attacks on the insecure Pig.
So is this a fowl movie that's only fit to be stewed? Fortunately, there are a few Grade-A nuggets of worth, such as a message about the importance of fathers and sons putting down their guards and learning to sincerely communicate. Still, even the talented cast and skilled computer animators can't compensate for the lack of connection the audience feels for this coop of characters -- leaving this production a couple of eggs short of a full dozen
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Chicken Little.
Why are adults sometimes reluctant to trust children? Are they justified in feeling that way? Why are children sometimes motivated to make up stories?
Abby Mallard proffers psychological council gleaned from a myriad of magazines. What are the pros and cons of using pop culture as a source of advice? Where else could you seek for this kind of information?