Film Reviews: Wednesday, November 02, 2005
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Shell Shlock

Disney once again turns delicate subject matter into hash, in Chicken Little.

By BRIAN ABRAMS

The title character in Disney’s latest animal cartoon fable is adorable. Chicken Little’s head is shaped like a shallot, he’s sweet and kind, and his voice (courtesy of Zach Braff) is nasal.

He’s also an emotional wreck.

The source of his fragility is his outsider-ness. When we first see the fowl child, he’s in his neighborhood bell tower crying that the sky is falling. His fellow residents of Oakey Oaks go haywire — until they realize everything’s OK. The kid soon becomes a laughingstock, even to his father, former baseball star Buck “Ace” Cluck.

Over the course of the following year, the chick’s doomsaying produces a media circus that comes and goes, leaving in its wake bumper stickers, books, and a feature-length film, Crazy Little Chicken. He can’t even walk down the street without getting noticed. “Look, ma!” one kid says. “It’s that crazy little chicken!” “Yes,” the mother replies. “But we don’t make eye contact.”

Since the death of Chicken Little’s mom a while back, Buck (voiced by Garry Marshall) has been having a hard enough time as a single parent. Like his neighbors, he’s lost confidence in his son. The only people who still like Chicken Little are other young outsiders, including his love interest and spiritual guide, Ugly Duckling (voiced by Joan Cusack).

Her advice to him to communicate with his father becomes the movie’s moral center. But Chicken Little is a Disney movie, and like all Disney movies, subtlety is detested. An alien invasion is what finally makes Buck realize how dysfunctional his relationship is with his son. At this point, the movie’s almost over, and we realize that we’ve just spent the past hour and a half watching character development. Some of it is funny in a Lion King/Aladdin/The Emperor’s New Groove kinda way. But most of it is just ... informative. So when the denouement happens, it doesn’t go, um, over easy.


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