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Chicken Run

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted December 7, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

"Chicken Run" is the latest effort from the team of Peter Lord and Nick Park, who gained fame from their award-winning "Wallace and Gromit" short claymation films. "Chicken Run" absolutely contains the same wit, warmth and humor that the "W & G" films had, and the work that must have had to go into the completion of a film like this must be enormous.

The film revolves around the chickens of Mrs. Tweedy's farm, who find themselves in a rather prison-like structure that they keep trying to escape from before they become part of a chicken pie. One day, Rocky the Rooster (Mel Gibson) falls out of the sky and they think they've found their way out. Rocky, an American rooster, says he can teach them all to fly out of their drab surroundings, but can he?

The film has a wealth of great performers. Ginger, the leader of the group, is well-voiced by Julia Salwaha, who many may remember from "Absolutely Fabulous". Also contributing their voices are Jane Horracks, Miranda Richardson and, of course, Gibson, who is very funny - the sense of humor he seems to have is reflected again here.

The clay figures may not look completely like chickens, but we accept it because we've come to like them as characters. Their little eyes and expressions are so lively and animated that you can't help but be impressed by the work it takes - moving the clay figures slightly for each frame. There are not only some fantastic lines throughout the film, but there are also some great visual jokes, both very subtle and obvious. The movie runs a very fast 84 minutes, and is something that most will probably come back to to catch all the jokes a second or third time.

Overall though, "Chicken Run" is simply a great deal of fun. The jokes are both funny for children and adults, and the movie is really something the whole family can enjoy.


VIDEO: This is really a flawless presentation. Dreamworks presents "Chicken Run" in a 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer that is often jaw-droppingly great looking. Sharpness is nothing less than perfect for the entire film, and detail is also superb. This is one of the smoothest, cleanest looking presentations I've seen in quite some time.

I didn't see any instances of shimmering, pixelation or print flaws. There wasn't even a slight scratch, speckle or mark on the image. Colors are absolutely stunning with rich reds, oranges and a wide variety of other colors throughout the movie.

This is truly amazing work - not only did I not find any flaws, but the image quality as a whole is among the best I've seen. No complaints for "Chicken Run" at all.

SOUND: Dreamworks presents "Chicken Run" in both Dolby Digital - EX and DTS - ES soundtracks. The movie as a whole though, really isn't very "sound-driven". The majority of the movie's sound comes from the front and generally is well-presented, with the score having a particularly nice presence.

Surround use comes into play during a few instances towards the second half of the movie such as in the machine. Other than that, the surrounds pretty much just offer the score or are silent. Dialogue is clear and easily understood. Both versions of the audio are enjoyable, but the DTS version presents the sound with slightly improved warmth and clarity.

MENUS:: Dreamworks has provided some very clever menus for the movie, with animated transitions that involve the next menu - you'll have to see it for yourself, but they're very well done.


Commentary: This is a commentary from directors Nick Park and Peter Lord. It's a decent discussion of the movie, with the two providing their thoughts on how to build the story and the characters, but even more than that, they talk about the work that they did with the animation of the movie. Their discussion of the work that they did in terms of the animation and the planning is the most interesting parts of the commentary; there is some discussion of the story and characters which doesn't prove to be quite as interesting to listen to. A bit slow at times, but overall there are few pauses of silence and hearing about the work that it takes for this kind of animation is amazing.

Poultry In Motion: Making Of "Chicken Run": A promotional documentary, but a very interesting one. This feature takes us behind the scenes to give a visual look at how the animation was done, and also, offers the usual - interviews with both the cast and crew, as well as clips from the mvoie. It's one of those documentaries that's light and pleasant enough to watch once, but isn't something that I think most will be coming back to to often. This documentary is a little under 21 minutes.

The Hatching Of "Chicken Run": Another promotional documentary, this one lasting about 15 minutes. With few exceptions, it goes over the same ground as the first documentary. Still, it's an interesting watch at least once as we see some footage of the directing duo's early work.

Read Along: For the younger crowd, this allows them to follow along with a shorter, more general telling of the tale.

Trailers: Deserving of special mention are the set of trailers that are included here; we get both of the theatrical trailers in Dolby Digital 5.1 and a TV ad. The first trailer is pretty general, but trailer two is a hilarious spoof of "Mission Impossible" and the TV ad also has a little fun with the "Gladiator" trailer. Also, there is a "sneak preview" trailer for the upcoming Dreamworks animated feature "Shrek", which is presented in Dolby Digital 5.l and looks fantastic. The film stars Mike Meyers, Eddie Murphy, John Lithgow and others, and comes out May 2001.

Also: Production notes, cast/crew bios, hidden "Chicken Run Facts" throughout the menus and DVD-ROM material including screen-savers and games.

Final Thoughts: "Chicken Run" is a wonderfully fun and charming feature from Park and Lord. Dreamworks has also done a wonderful job on the DVD release, with great audio and video quality, along with some great extras. The DVD is a must-see and perfect for the whole family.

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Highly Recommended

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