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Chicken Little Review by Hollywood Reporter


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Chicken Little

By Michael Rechtshaffen
Hollywood Reporter

While some half-hatched plotting prevents it from approaching the sublime levels of a "Toy Story" or "The Incredibles," the picture zips along quite agreeably with a zany energy and vividly rendered, terrifically voiced, madcap characters.

Factor in the added attraction of 3D presentations in select theaters (though the venue used for this preview screening wasn't one of them) along with savvy marketing and merchandising, and Disney's gamble should find itself with boxoffice returns that ain't chicken feed.

Director Mark Dindal ("The Emperor's New Groove") and credited screenwriters Steve Bencich & Ron J. Friedman ("Brother Bear") and Ron Anderson have taken the time-honored chicken-who-cried-wolf fable and have given it a satirical "War of the Worlds" spin.

A year has passed since that "unfortunate acorn incident," but Chicken Little (effectively voiced by Zach Braff) is still paying the price for sending the citizens of Oakey Oaks into a panic when he mistakenly proclaimed that the sky was falling.

The town laughingstock, he bides his time with the equally unpopular Abby Mallard, aka Ugly Duckling (Joan Cusack); the extremely porcine, disco-loving Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn); and the diver's helmet-wearing Fish Out of Water (gurgles provided by editor Dan Molina) while anxiously awaiting a shot at redemption.

It finally arrives when he joins the local baseball team and miraculously scores the winning run. But just when Chicken Little finally wins the respect of his deeply ashamed, widowed father, Buck Cluck (a perfectly cast Garry Marshall), the sky really does begin to fall when Oakey Oaks becomes the target of what appears to be a diabolical alien invasion.

Aside from keeping that persistent Disney dead mother syndrome alive, Dindal, who shares story credit with Mark Kennedy, exhibits a strong flair for lively, quirky characterizations.

Unfortunately, the storytelling's not as strong, especially once those aliens arrive, and while there's no shortage of wacky humor (there's always something clever going on in the background), what "Chicken Little" ultimately lacks is that satisfying, lump-in-the-throat, gentle emotional tug to go along with all the craziness.

But the voice cast, which also includes Don Knotts as Mayor Turkey Lurkey, Amy Sedaris as the bullying Foxy Loxy, Fred Willard and Catherine O'Hara as an alien dad and mom and Harry Shearer as a play-by-play canine commentator, is uniformly robust and right on the comedic money.

Although some last-minute tinkering by Industrial Light & Magic prevented the film from being assessed in the Disney Digital 3D process, the characters and backgrounds have a brightly stylized, fully dimensional quality on their own.

Composer John Debney's bouncy score is supplemented "Shrek"-style by a mix of vintage pop (Five for Fighting covering Art Garfunkel's "All I Know") and originals (Barenaked Ladies' spirited "One Little Slip").

The film is dedicated to the memory of beloved Disney animator Joe Grant, who broke some ground of his own working on "Fantasia," and who died this year just shy of his 97th birthday.
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