Directed by: Mark Dindal
Starring: Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Don Knotts, Steve Zahn
Even if you aren't already burned out by the incessant ad campaign for Disney's desperate bid to turn itself into Pixar or Dreamworks, you're apt to find Chicken Little pretty tough slogging -- assuming you're beyond the age of 10. Granting the fact that Disney's last-gasp hand-drawn animation efforts have been -- with the exception of Lilo and Stitch -- pretty lackluster affairs, most appear positively inspired next to the unfocused mish-mash on display here.
Two key words -- desperation and corporation -- apply, and either one alone is the kiss of death creatively. Together, they spell disaster. Surely, it's no coincidence that the best Disney film of recent years, Lilo and Stitch, was the vision of two creators, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, who were allowed to work without much interference. Brother Bear, on the other hand, boasted seven writers (two of whom also worked on Chicken Little), and the result was a "disappointment" that took in about $60 million less than Lilo and Stitch.
What did the corporation conclude from that? Why, that hand-drawn animation had been killed by Pixar and Dreamworks. Brilliant! So they made a desperate bid to copy Pixar and Dreamworks -- coming up with a committee-based movie that tries to duplicate the surface of those companies' successful films. In other words, they shot for The Incredibles or Shrek and didn't even manage Madagascar.
What they wound up with was a melange of pop songs (some dreadful, others just used dreadfully), pop-culture references (most not very funny), and more padding than in a roomful of overstuffed furniture. A very thin story line was cobbled together: Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff, Garden State) disgraces himself (and since this is Disney, his widowed father) by claiming the sky is falling, and must now prove to the world that he's not crazy, which, of course, it turns out he isn't. The sky -- or at least a loose bit of a camouflaged space ship -- actually is falling.
Since that's not enough (and that's all that's happening here) to fill up even 77 minutes, there's a large chunk of the movie given over to him becoming a baseball hero. Hey, it eats up time, even if it has nothing to do with the rest of the film -- and everybody likes baseball and the underchicken saving the day, right? Corporate Disney must think so, just as they think dead parents are a real crowd-pleaser. Once the film gets back to the plot, it turns into a rip-off of... excuse me, an homage to War of the Worlds, so Chicken Little can really prove himself. Did we ever doubt that he would?
There's an attempt to flesh out the thin story with the usual collection of odd characters, few of whom are funny, none of whom are original, two of whom are frankly troubling.
Runt of the Litter (voiced by Steve Zahn) is presented throughout the film as a kind of gay caricature, who listens to (in some cases, speaks in) disco and can be reduced to quivering terror by his mother threatening to take away his Barbra Streisand collection. Fair enough and harmless enough, but ... Foxy Loxy (voiced by Amy Sedaris, Stay) is presented as an extremely manly, sports-crazed character -- at least till an alien machine converts her into a ridiculously feminine "fluff chick," simpering and "strutting her stuff," whereupon Runt of the Litter immediately falls for her. The message here may be accidental, but it's also reactionary, regressive and more than slightly offensive. But then the whole film is slightly offensive in what it asks us to accept as entertainment. Rated G
-- reviewed by Ken Hanke