Thursday, December 9, 2010

DAF #45 - Chicken Little (2005)

"Prepare to hurt, and I don't mean emotionally like I do!"
-Chicken Little

 Title: Chicken Little
Year: 2005
Rated: G
Run Time: 1 hour, 21 minutes

Zach Braff as Chicken Little
Joan Cusack as Abby Mallard
Steve Zahn as Runt of the Litter
Garry Marshall as Buck Cluck
Amy Sedaris as Foxy Loxy
Don Knotts as Turkey Lurkey 

Plot: After ruining his reputation with the town, a courageous chicken must come to the rescue of his fellow citizens when aliens start an invasion.
Based on: The fable "Henny Penny".
Setting: Oaky Oakes, USA, the present?

Tagline: The end is near.

First Viewing:
Sometime in 2007 after buying the DVD simply to round out my Disney canon.

So we meet again, spoke in my wheel. About two years ago, I started going through the Disney Animated Features canon as a way to alleviate the boredom that came along with my desk job. I was doing fairly well with my randomly chosen order. I actually posted four reviews in four days but then I drew Chicken Little and the sky fell in. (Pun intended).

As the legend goes, in 2004, it was announced that Home on the Range would be the last traditionally cell animated feature released by Disney. Pixar, Dreamworks, and to a lesser extent, Blue Sky Studios, had been dominating the box office with their CGI, family friendly, pop-culture savvy animated features. And Disney decided to temporarily sell its soul.

I was tremendously upset at this decision, having been born and raised in the Disney Renaissance. But, to me at least, there was a light at the end of the tunnel: the source material. I felt Disney had lost their way a bit with their sci-fi action adventures and heavy handed bear drama. I thought they could only benefit from going back to fairy tales and fables, even if the story of "Henny Penny" is ridiculously mundane.

It can be summarized in one sentence: A chicken (a hen, specifically) assumes the sky is falling because an acorn falls on her head so she rounds up her animal friends to go to tell The King and is instead eaten by a fox.

How did Disney fill up 81 minutes with that? Well, by attempting to copy the Dreamworks formula of course. In the beginning, our hero Chicken Little (masculinized for this version) frantically rings the school bell announcing "The sky is falling!" The town of Oaky Oakes becomes hysterical. But when it comes time for Chicken Little to procure the piece of sky that fell from the sky, he can't. He becomes the laughing stock of the town and shames his father, Buck Cluck, the town's biggest former baseball star.

A year later, Chicken Little is a complete outcast. His only friends are ugly duckling Abby Mallard, cowardly pig Runt of the Litter, and Fish Out of Water, a fish out of water who wears a diving helmet at all times (it's a necessity). Chicken and his posse are constantly mocked by everyone but especially the athletic, popular, and smart Foxy Loxey.

Since the incidence with the falling sky, Chicken Little's relationship with his dad has been strained. Abby, who is a frequent reader of Modern Mallard and Cosmoduck magazine (oh, Christ), suggests they talk to each other to get closure. But instead of talking about his feelings (yuck!) he mans up and joins the school's baseball team. Surprisingly, Chicken Little subverts the "Casey at the Bat" trope and scores a home run. His dad is proud and all is well.

Or is it?

No. On the same night, Chicken Little finds another piece of the sky. This time he realizes it's not in fact a piece of the sky but part of an alien spaceship. (Yes, more aliens, folks). Chicken Little announces it to the town. Panic ensues as the town of Oaky Oakes prepares for an invasion.

LOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG story short: It's not an alien invasion. A little baby alien was stranded on earth. He's returned to his parents. Chicken Little and his dad find closure. All is well.

Or is it?

Yes. Yes it is.

I can safely say that Chicken Little is the worst Disney movie on the canon. The biggest problem is that it just doesn't feel Disney. Even the crappiest crap movies on the list still feel Disney. I don’t really know what that means exactly. It’s just a feeling, like being in love, you either feel it or your don’t. And this one is sorely lacking mojo.

So why then is it ranked #45 instead of #50? Well, this is a ranked list of my enjoyment of each film. I hate Lilo & Stitch. And I’m rather eh about The Three Caballeros, Melody Time, Oliver & Company, and Saludos Amigos. With Chicken Little, I’m ashamed to admit, that I lol’d at several of the lame ass jokes and music cues. I liked Abby’s secret love for Chicken Little (shut up). And for the first time in this ascending order series, I found a scene that I actually loved.

At the end, Buck Cluck surmises about the movie that will inevitably be made about their story. Chicken Little hopes it will be accurate. A year later, the town of Oaky Oakes watches the most Michael Bay version of the story. Adam West voices a muscle headed slightly Captain Kirk Chicken Little. Abby is turned into a sexy chick (pun intended) who is more breast than brains. Runt is a brave, gruff voiced pilot with tusks (?). Cliches abound and I love every minute of it.

"Call me... ... ...Ace."
There are a lot of issues with Chicken Little: weak story, aliens, unnecessary celebrity voice actors, aliens, desperate self references, fucking aliens...but one of the biggest is the soundtrack. Not all Disney movies have big Broadway caliber musical numbers like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Some have a smaller number of more subdued ditties, like Sword in the Stone, The Fox and the Hound and Treasure Planet. Atlantis has one random Oscar bait end credits song. And finally The Black Cauldron and The Rescuers Down Under only have scores. But Chicken Little is the first DAF to use previously released popular songs.

I don't know how I feel about this, because the original music by the various artists isn't that great. It's pretty forgettable actually. So is the score. Judge me if you will, but I enjoyed the karaoke moments and how popular music got Runt through some tough spots. (Iron helps us play!)

Maybe Chicken Little doesn't deserve its spot at #45, but there it will stay because this is my damn list. Don't worry, it can only get better from here.

"Stir it Up" - Joss Stone and Patti Labelle
"One Little Slip" - The Barenaked Ladies
"Shake a Tail Feather" - The Cheetah Girls
"All I Know" - Five For Fighting
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" - Diana Ross
"It's the End of the World As We Know It" - R.E.M.
"We Are the Champions" - Zach Braff (Chicken Little)
"Wannabe" - Joan Cusack (Abby Mallard) and Steve Zahn (Runt)
"Don't Go Breaking My Heart" - The Chicken Little Cast

Favorite Song: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" - Diana Ross (if it's on the soundtrack, I'm counting it!)
Favorite Moment: The film version of "Chicken Little"

 Favorite Character: Uhh...Adam West's Chicken Little. I also liked Harry Shearer as the Dog Baseball Announcer (even if he's just doing his Kent Brockman voice).

Next Film: Dinosaur (2000)

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