“Chicken Run” is based on the Steve McQueen World War II prison camp movie The Great Escape, except that all the characters are chickens. Yep, chickens. Nick Park, who brought us the amazing clay-animated adventures of Wallace and Gromit, is back with his first feature for the big screen, Chicken Run. Set in a Yorkshire chicken farm in 1950s England, the story begins with Ginger, a feisty chicken who just wants to fly the coop, so to speak. She and her pals are held captive at Mrs. Tweedy’s chicken farm, which is not unlike a prison camp. Each chicken is required to produce eggs daily and if you’ve got no eggs, you’re dinner. Facing inevitable death by meat cleaver, Ginger will do anything to escape, but nothing seems to work.
When Rocky the rooster miraculously lands at the farm, hope is restored. Rocky promises to help the chicks learn to fly so they can escape. Things go from bad to worse as Mrs. Tweedy purchases a giant contraption that makes chicken pot pies. Mr. Tweedy intends to test it and uses Ginger for the first pie. Of course, Rocky comes to the rescue. Rocky, is kind of cocky, and the chicks soon discover that he’s a fraud. Ginger is shocked when she discovers that Rocky was merely a circus rooster, who is shot through a cannon. What the cluck?! He can’t fly at all. Things go from bad to worse as all the chickens on the farm are to be turned into pies. Now, they MUST find a way to escape, or they’ll be cooked inside a warm, flaky, pastry, with vegetables which actually sounds really good right now. Mmmmm, I love pot pies.
As with all feature animated movies these days, the voices are provided by a host of celebrities and big stars. Mel Gibson is Rocky the Rooster, Miranda Richardson is Mrs. Tweedy, Julia Sawalha is Ginger, Jane Horrocks is Babs, Lynn Ferguson is Ma, Imelda Staunton is Bunty, Benjamin Withrow is Fowler, Tony Haygarth is Mr. Tweedy, the bumbling groundskeeper and Timothy Spall is Nick the mouse. Hey! These aren’t names I recognize! So, I guess they aren’t ALL stars but the voice acting works well.
It’s great to see the Aardman Studios style of clay animation on the big screen. Every frame of this film is entertaining and clever. Chicken Run is a blast. I know I’ve seen a good funny animal movie if I stop eating the animal in real life. After I saw Babe, I didn’t eat bacon for about a month. Right now, I’m sworn off chicken. Now, while I thought it was great, I still was not as charmed by this as I was by Park’s earlier Wallace and Gromit films, which will remain classics to me.