The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Chicken Little

What happened to Walt Disney animation? It went from the gold standard to dreck, recovered with the modern computer-assisted animated musical (Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin) and then all the life went out of it when Pixar and Dreamworks redefined the genre with hip pop culture references, big names, and snappy writing.

This is an obvious and desperate-looking attempt to copy the new hip formula while still retaining "the Disney magic." It is frenetic and snappy in a "script by committee" kind of way. You can almost hear the writers saying: "We should put in a gag here." "How about referencing a movie?" "Okay, that will work."

Then things suddenly stop dead every so often for a moment of heartfelt moralizing about the importance of father-son communications or a wistful, yet unexplained, reminiscence of a single parent for his missing spouse. Play a song for the soundtrack album and ratchet up the action again. Rinse. Repeat.

Every voice is a recognizable celebrity, only one of whom (Steve Zahn) even attempts to create a vocal characterization for his part. The rest just read the lines. I was constantly pulled away from the thin story line to ruminate on the actors' voices and build associations of where I had heard them sound like that before. A main point of the story is that the lead characters are children in school, who don't get respect and credibility from the adults of the community. But all the kids' voices are done by adults. Zach Braff as Chicken Little sounds like the talk he needs to have with his dad is the same one he had as a disaffected mid-twenties young adult in "Garden State." And God bless her, but I don't think Joan Cusack EVER sounded like a kid!

Debbie and I disagreed about whether little kids would enjoy the movie. I don't have kids, so I'm no expert, but while I figure they would be engaged by the bright colors and fast motion, I had a hard time believing the paper-thin draggy plot would hold them. And the referential gags (many of which are not cute little throwaways with a wink, but are highlighted and jammed down our throats) are all made in reference to things that were popular well before any of the target audience children were born. Mixing references to The Spice Girls, Gloria Gaynor, Elton John, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Natural seems to me to call upon a weird timespan that doesn't fit the kids or their parents too well.

This isn't a maliciously bad movie... it's just not a very good movie. Still, you can fire it up as a time filler for the kiddies without worrying about anything more unsavory than their proclivity after viewing it to emulate all the references to burping, snot, and pee-pee synonyms. I'll tell you, for me there is no higher form of comedic innovation.


At 1:21 AM, Blogger ForsakenBySunRa said...

I really shouldn't respond to this post not having watched 'Chicken Little', but I can whole-heartedly agree with you on the subject of animation in general. Think of the wizardry and intensity of the Walt Disney Studios used to show on films like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and MOST importantly, seems as if technological 'advancements' have destroyed the soul of the medium.

I will never see 'Chicken Nuggets...' or any of the 5 sequels that are going to follow. But I love animation. And it's really a shame.


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