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CHICKEN RUN

SYNOPSIS:
On Tweedy's Chicken Farm in the north of England, Ginger (Julia Sawalha) is sick of being cooped up and forced to lay eggs. Determined to lead her fellow chickens to freedom, she tries one escape plan after another - but nothing works. Then one day a new arrival crashlands in the barnyard: Rocky the Flying Rooster (Mel Gibson) a brash, cocksure American escapee from a nearby circus. In return for hiding him from the searchers, Ginger persuades Rocky to teach the chickens to fly. But progress is slow, and meanwhile Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) the farmer's wife, has come up for a new idea for making money: instead of selling eggs, she plans to market Mrs Tweedy's Chicken Pies...

"Chicken Run tackles the deadly serious subject of freedom and the meaning of life (as a chicken), in a setting that quickly establishes the English as the chicken-cruellest nation on earth. On the isolated Tweedy chicken farm somewhere in muddy England, acts of horrifying inchickenity are committed as the powerless chickens – all female except for one old, battered and dotty rooster (Fowler, wouldn’t you know it) – are kept behind wire, forced to produce eggs for the capitalist Tweedy swine. This politically charged story is made the more riveting by the use of clay figures, an existential statement about humanity, no doubt, but brilliantly executed. No sign of ‘cute’. The chickens accept their lot grimly – a condemnation perhaps of the lazy proletariat? But one amongst the hens, Ginger, is a feisty idealist, a revolutionary nurturing the spirit of liberty. Ginger (a female Lenin, possibly) cannot quite come up with the right escape plan until the cavalry arrives, in the form of US huckster and roadster, Rocky (Mel Gibson). In this subtle metaphor, the filmmakers express their view of history, in which the Americans saved the Brits from slavery and stuff. (Or else Mel just wanted to get into chicken character; we’ll never know.) Needless to say, this will ignite a thousand lectures and speeches, but let’s remember, the victors always crow loudest. History aside, the film has a mixed bag of politically correct / incorrect scenarios: for instance, of the farm couple, the man is stupid and useless, and the woman is greedy and cruel. This is just one PC view of mankind, but the film cleverly avoids giving any others. Chicken Run even manages a great party scene, where music ignites even the dullest hen’s dancing feet. . . As the greatest chicken marketer once (almost) said, ‘it’s finger clickin’ good’. And if you thought Babe was good news for audiences but a killer for bacon products, Chicken Run is certain to . . .er . . .choke the chicken business. It’s a rooster of a film."
Andrew L. Urban

"Whimsical, witty, innovative and irresistible, Chicken Run is the film to catch this summer. Peter Lord and Nick Park have done for chickens what Gary Larson did for cows, in this delightful stop-motion clay animation parody. Whatever your age, it's an instant love-affair – we accept these funny looking chickens with the close-together eyes, goofy teeth and hands for wings instantly and without question. They're nerdy, hysterical and adorable all at once as they assume human emotions and characteristics. I even caught a little tear rolling down my cheeks, as one of the clay chickens became emotionally challenged. As in all good comedies, the drama is played for real and as we are engrossed in this bizarre world of chicken angst in a concentration camp-like setting, we genuinely care for the characters and their plight. Voiced by a superlative cast, the script is inventive and fresh, the soundtrack melodic and never do we feel manipulated. This is a world filled with ideas, charm and humour. A mix of an escape movie, romance and slapstick comedy, Chicken Run is a delight from start to finish. Chickens dancing, knitting, doing push-ups and dreaming of greener pastures, Aardman Studios take one step beyond their smashing Wallace and Grommit characters and sustain effortlessly in this magical first full length feature. Playful, infectious, and totally extraordinary, you'd better run to see it – it's wicked!"
Louise Keller

"Britain's Aardman Studios have achieved great popular success by positioning themselves as an old-fashioned alternative to high-tech Hollywood cinema: in the age of digital effects, they cling proudly to their fiddly, time-consuming, hands-on claymation techniques. This ties in neatly with the quaint whimsy of the films themselves, which are filled with clunky mechanical gadgets and English eccentrics who like nothing better than to settle down with a cup of tea. Whatever you think of this cosy mythology, the important thing is that Aardman have a distinctive, personal style - as opposed to recent Hollywood cartoons like Dinosaur, where the images, characters and dialogue all seem equally manufactured by computer. I'm happy to report that Chicken Run, Aardman's first feature, is a delight from start to finish. From the first dramatic overhead shots of Tweedy's Chicken Farm at night - a grim prison camp of low wooden huts and barnyards enclosed by barbed wire, with razor-toothed dogs patrolling the borders - it's so perfectly done you scarcely know whether to laugh or cry. The film is so totally committed to being a stiff-upper-lip WW2 movie that happens to star plasticine chickens: like some of the best Hollywood musicals, it fashions an absurd world with pristine tenderness and care. There are endless verbal and visual jokes, many of them falling into the category of the brilliantly obvious ('This is chicken feed,' complains a rat, when they try to bribe him with a bag of grain), along with plenty of Aardman's trademark references to earlier films. One especially nice touch is the casting of Julia Sawalha: not only is she reunited with her Absolutely Fabulous co-star Jane Horrocks, but the banter between Ginger and Rocky strongly recalls a similar love-hate relationship on Sawalha's classic TV show Press Gang..."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with

PETER LORD and
NICK PARK

Brad Green's SOUNDTRACK REVIEW with audio excerpts.

TRAILER

CHICKEN RUN (G)
(US)

VOICES: Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson, John Sharian, Jo Harvey Allen, Lisa Kay, Laura Strachan

DIRECTOR: Peter Lord, Nick Park

PRODUCER: Peter Lord, Nick Park, David Sproxton

SCRIPT: Karey Kirkpatrick (story by Peter Lord, Nick Park)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tristan Oliver, Dave Alex Riddett

EDITOR: Mark Solomon

MUSIC: Harry Gregson-Williams, John Powell

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Phil Lewis

RUNNING TIME: 84 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 7, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video (Retail Release)

VIDEO RELEASE: April 4, 2001

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