Babs: Morning, Ginger. Back from holiday?
Ginger: I wasn’t on holiday, Babs. I was in solitary confinement.
Babs: Oh. It’s nice to get a bit of time to yourself, isn’t it?
The summer of 2000 for movies I remember extremely well. This was probably because at the time, I was in the process of moving with my family from Arizona to New Jersey. I was 15 at the time, and obviously not too pleased about the whole ordeal. That summer we spent living with my aunt in a strange city that was not ours (Phoenix…), with no friends but my cousins and my little sister. What did we do for fun? We seriously went to see every movie under the sun. Pretty much every week or every other week, we were at the movie theater. This was one of the many we saw. So was Fantasia 2000, Dinosaur, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Gone in 60 Seconds, and many numerous others. Like many of the movies I saw that summer, I had no idea what this movie was about. We just saw it because it was something to do.
At the time, I was a bit familiar with Wallace & Gromit. I had at least heard of the animation team and the idea of the british stop motion clay figures, even though I hadn’t seen any of it. I remember after seeing this movie being pleasantly surprised. It was better than I thought it would have been, and I quickly decided that it wasn’t simply “kids stuff.” It was quirky, fun, original, and funny. So how does it rank now that I’m an adult? Let’s find out.
I do want to start by saying that unlike Coraline, this movie doesn’t try to hide that it’s subjects are made of clay. In fact, it embraces the medium and uses it to the design of the characters to make them more unique. You can see the cuts of the clay and the stitches on the hats or bandanas or necklaces. I actually find it hilarious that every single chicken in this movie has something around their neck. It’s to hide the seam, I’m guessing.
This movie also has one of the best opening sequences in an animated movie. We see a chicken (our protagonist, Ginger) attempting to break out of the chicken yard. She gets caught, and the farmer, Mr. Tweedy, proclaims “No chicken breaks out of Mr. Tweedy’s farm!” Then during the rest of the opening credits, we go through all sorts of ridiculous plans and attempts by not only Ginger, but the rest of her chicken friends, to escape. All the while she is the only one that gets caught and gets thrown into the dumpster, or as she puts it, “solitary confinement.”
I love this opening because it tells you what the plot is going to be, it tells you who the villains are, and what the protagonist is like. She’s stubborn. She’s got one thing on her mind and that is to escape. The other chickens would like it to, but they’re not as out for it as Ginger. She’s thrown again and again into that dumpster and it doesn’t phase her. That’s Ginger for you. And she’s a great character. She’s not just your run of the mill protagonist. She’s strong, plucky, and an absolute joy to watch (she’s honestly the main reason I like this movie as much as I do).
So we know what the plot is: chickens try to escape from a chicken farm. But it gets a little more complicated when Mrs. Tweedy decides the egg business is less than profitable and decides to buy a pit-making machine, intent on turning all the chickens into pot pies. On the chicken yard side of things, the sudden appearance of a flying rooster that crash lands into the yard signifies to Ginger that he (Rocky) can teach them how to fly. Obviously chickens can’t, but she saw him, so he, of course goes along with it so that Ginger doesn’t turn him in, as he’s on the run from the circus. We have the liar revealed plot, where everyone finds out almost too late that Rocky was a liar and he can’t fly (he got fired out of a canon). He disappears, not wanting to face the fate he has given these chickens. Things at the end get complicated, they build a giant airplane, Rocky comes back to rescue Ginger, and everyone lives happily ever after. That’s chicken run.
It’s a cute plot. It’s an interesting thing to compare the Chicken yard to an internment camp or a prison, but it works extremely well. I do have to say I wonder what this movie would have been like if they hadn’t had Rocky come in, because while his character is ok, it seems like something that’s been done a million times before. There’s nothing new that this story and his character adds to it.
I want to talk about Rocky for a second. He’s voiced by Mel Gibson, who I really don’t like. I never have. I don’t know what it is, but his voice just – ugh – it bugs me. That being said, he’s really good at playing the pompous, egotistical, suave guy that doesn’t care about anyone but himself. I know the idea in this movie is for him to change and realize that he does care and in the end he does come back to help, but his voice just reflective of that change. He still talks like he’s pompous and over the top when his character isn’t supposed to be like that anymore. I’m going to blame Mel Gibson. It might be irrational, but he really is one actor I can’t stand.
The villains are really interesting. Mrs. Tweedy is hands over your eyes scary at times, and her bumbling husband isn’t necessarily evil, but he goes along with everything she does even though it may not be the right thing. One thing that has ALWAYS bugged me about her idea to turn the chickens into pies is that she’s acting like this is going to be a good way to keep their family on tops for years and years. Did she ever think of what happens once all the chickens are gone? I mean, 3 dozen chickens will make 3 dozen pies, and then what? Buy more chickens to make more pies? I never got around her thought process. But that doesn’t matter. She’s insane and makes for a fun villain, especially at the end.
There are a lot of other supporting characters, because you have this yard full of chickens. Of course many we never know, but we do get to know a few, and they are memorable. Bunty is the pessimistic one, Babs is extremely dumb and loves to knit (when they think they are doomed she knits a noose – oh the amazing morbid humor!), Mac is the smart scottish one (who wears a MacLeod tartan scarf!! – I went to the College of Wooster which has the fighting Scot as its mascot and it wears that tartan – yellow, red, and black). We also get to know the only other male rooster in the bunch, Fowler, who is an old cranky man who only talks about his good old days back in the RAF (that’s Royal Air Force to anyone here state side). There’s also two rats that act as liasons, getting Ginger whatever she needs to build her crazy contraptions. They’re funny, but a bit thick.
So the characters are great and memorable. The plot is ok. What this movie really gets right is the humor. It’s so good you have to watch it a few times to pick up on everything. A lot of it is very subtle, and a lot of it is in the dialogue. I LOVE good dialog. It’s why The Iron Giant was so memorable. These jokes are great because of the delivery. There’s also many sight gags, and the rats are good at pointing out the horrible chicken puns that you just have to laugh at. For adults, there’s great humor that you have to pay close attention to catch, and for kids there’s great visual and out in front humor.
It also has one of the best closing sequences for a movie: the two rats are talking about how to get rich, and one suggests they get a chicken. The other suggests they get an egg. You can see where this is going. The movie literally blacks out with the two of them discussing which came first. It’s clever.
Chicken Run (2000) is definitely worth a watch. I liked it when I was 15, and it’s still incredibly entertaining to this day, if not more so. I still remember the first time I saw it after going to my college. I literally flipped out when I saw Mac wearing the MacLeod tartan. I laughed so much harder at things I never remembered when I was a teenager. It’s harmless and fun for kids, enjoyable for adults. Definitely check it out if you need something to watch on family movie night. It might even be on netflix.(edit: ok, it’s not. At one point it was on watch instant. But still, it’s worth a watch!!)
I give Chicken Run (2000) a 3.9 out of 5.
Next up: Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002).**
** Disclaimer: if you’ve noticed I’m going in Chronological order in Dreamworks. YES, I know Shrek is technically next, but seeing how my husband insanely orders our DVDs, the Shrek movies are on a different shelf along with triologies and series. I will do those three then (he didn’t touch my Pixar sequels though. Hahahah! I win!!)