“Modern Mallard says that avoiding closure can lead to molting, and I’m already small and on top of that I don’t think I can handle being bald!”
It always seems like whenever a movie is made for the sake of something other than the story, it never fails to disappoint. For example, is there any doubt in anyone’s minds that the Star Wars prequels were little more than special visual effects portfolio pieces for Industrial Light and Magic? If you need proof, just listen to the commentaries or watch the behind the scenes stuff and take note of how often the story is talked about in comparison to the effects and production.
I had this in mind as I sat down to watch Disney’s Chicken Little. This was the first major effort by Disney to produce a CGI animated movie solo instead of in conjunction with their long time associate Pixar. Because of this, I couldn’t help but compare it to the Pixar productions as I watched it and by the end I decided it was more a showcase of their CGI animation capabilities than a movie they decided to make because the story was worthy.
But why? It had all of the cool, trendy CGI graphics and animation. What I found it lacking was heart and a well thought out story. From the trailers, one would believe that it’s all about an alien invasion, but I thought that it took too long to set up that situation and then when we finally do see the aliens, they’re gone before you know it.
The story is basically this: a little misfit chicken, named Chicken Little (shocker), is ostracized by the town he lives in because of his seemingly false claim that the sky was falling which sent the town into frenzy. In his efforts to prove him self to the town he finds that what he wants most is to prove himself to his father.
That alone sounded great to me. I really had high hopes that I’d be surprised by this movie and find that it was actually a touching father/son relationship flick. The problem is they just let it hang. It seemed like towards then end that they must have written in the script, “comedic alien invasion,” and let the gags fly. When it came to resolving the father/son conflict, there was no real bonding between father and son, but it was just that the dad turned into a pushover wanting to cater to every whim of his son’s. To me, that was unsatisfying.
But did I hate it? No. Much of it was very funny! As a comedy it worked well. I liked the premise, it just seemed like it was made up of parts of 4 different movies and it could have been great if it had just focused on one. I also like movies that are funny, but end up making us feel good about ourselves and the experience we had, it seemed like Disney was just in it for the laughs in this one.
I wish they could have focused more on one of the included plots to make this movie a bit more cohesive. Let’s see, is it a story about a misfit kid and the heartache of feeling that the whole world is against you? Is it about an ingenious kid whose incredible dexterity and ability to improvise saves the town? Is it about a father who doesn’t know how to identify to his son because he’s not as coordinated or athletic as he (his father) used to be? (A point that doesn’t jive with some of the stunts we see Chicken Little pull off throughout the movie) Is it about an alien child who accidentally gets abandoned on earth and has to be rescued by local kids and given back to the alien parents before interstellar war breaks out? (Hmm, sounds like E.T.) Any of these stories would have been fun to explore with the others becoming sub plots, but there’s really no clear main story for the movie.
But my kids enjoyed it. And I didn’t find anything in it that was offensive, except for the obligatory burp humor to make kids giggle. If I had to compare it to another movie, I would say it’s a lot like Dreamwork’s Madagascar—big on laughs, but only so-so on heart.