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Disney disaster ‘Chicken Little’ lays an egg

Mary Squillace | Friday, March 24, 2006

Back in the day, Disney movies meant classic tales punctuated with catchy songs that offered even college students a fun nostalgic retreat. “Chicken Little” is not one of those movies.

While it has lured audience members in with its seemingly cute and cuddly 3-D characters, Disney’s latest release fails to live up to the brand’s legacy.

“Chicken Little” takes place in a bizarre contemporary animal world, where Chicken Little has been ostracized for claiming that the sky is falling when a piece of the sky appears to land on his head. Feeling rejected by his community, classmates and even his father, Chicken Little vows to prove himself by joining the baseball team. Miraculously, after not having been allowed to play in any prior games, he manages to score the winning run in the championship.

Although his victory on the baseball field earns Chicken Little the approval he desires from his father, he is instantly faced with a new challenge when aliens invade his town. Alongside his wacky friends, Chicken Little manages to muster the courage and self-confidence to save the day.

Okay, sure it’s the standard kids’ film – predictable and riddled with corny, feel-good messages – but when compared against the likes of “Shrek” and “Finding Nemo,” “Chicken Little” only appears more pathetic. Animated films have previously overcome the age barrier by appealing to an adult audience through sly parodies and PG jokes that go over younger audience members’ heads.

“Chicken Little,” on the other hand, tries for this effect but fails. It packs in too many cheesy gimmicks that are strung together and stretched over an extremely thin plot. With a story that switches gears so many times, the audience gets the feeling that the filmmakers were frantically trying to compensate for a story that simply did not provide enough substance for an entertaining film. In fact, despite its feature-length film status at 81 minutes, this film feels more like an animated short. The allusions to pop-culture that do exist fall short in delivering laughs. One especially cringe-worthy attempt at parody features one of the characters constructing an Empire State Building replica and imitating King Kong.

Another way the filmmakers trys to tap into an older audience is with one of the characters, the overweight Runt of the Litter, who frequently bursts into popular songs. Unfortunately, this character’s effect is more nerve-grating than laugh-generating.

Armed with their wacky traits that we’ve seen embodied by a dozen other far more endearing individuals, the film’s characters are equally painful to watch. Even big-name actors who supplied voices to the characters – Zach Braff as Chicken Little, Joan Cusack as Abby Mallard, and the talented Amy Sedaris as Chicken Little’s nemesis, Foxy Loxy – fail to breathe life or humor into the film.

Another disappointing aspect of “Chicken Little” is its song selection. Sitting through the overdramatic tunes is enough to make anyone pity the soccer moms and dads who will endure playing the soundtrack on repeat to entertain four-year-olds.

The film is released on DVD today and includes deleted scenes, alternate openings and games, as well as a variety of other bonus features. But not even a diamond encrusted DVD case could make it a worthwhile investment.

Instead of wasting money on Chicken Little, the $19.99 would be better spent on a whole lot of poultry.