Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Chicken Run

chicken run2I’ve been eagerly awaiting this week’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot as it is an animated film, and one that I happen to love at that- Aardman animation’s 2000 Chicken Run.

I know this is about chickens instead of turkey but it has become a bit of a Thanksgiving tradition at my house to watch Chicken Run.   It certainly beats Free Birds as a Thanksgiving film and I don’t think there are any other movies about poultry.  Am I wrong?

I watched it again today and was delighted all over again.  This will be more like a traditional review from me since animation is my blog focus but at the bottom I will have my best shot like normal.

If you haven’t seen it, Chicken Run is a claymation, stop motion animation take on a prison escape movie like The Great Escape.

It focuses on Ginger (Minnie Driver), a plucky chicken at Tweedy egg farm who refuses to be satisfied with a life at the farm.  She is really the only intelligent chicken in the lot.  Well, there is the braniac chicken but she’s the only one that seems to understand what they are up against.

The design of the farm is brilliant with hen houses that look like the cabins of the Great Escape. All of Ginger’s attempts to escape feel very reminiscent of those pictures. I like this shot the bunk has 17 on it like Stallag 17, another famous prison war movie.

chicken run9The chickens end up failing in all of their attempts and Farmer Tweedy gets suspicious the “chickens are organizing!” which his wife Mrs Tweedy thinks is insane.  She’s the main villain of the picture and a lot of fun in a Cruella Deville type fashion. Her dream is to turn the chickens into pies and she buys a giant manufacturing machine to make the pies.

chicken run6With the purchase of the new machine Ginger is about to lose hope when a rooster named Rocky comes flying in to the farm.  Ginger knows he is from the circus but thinks he has somehow learned how to fly.  To Ginger this could be their salvation.  Perhaps he can teach them how to fly!  chicken run17Of course what he isn’t telling them is he is shot out of a canon and can’t fly, but he needs to hide out from the circus while they are in town so he plays along and begins training them on how to fly.  This involves a really fun montage of chickens doing pushups and the like.

chicken run20There’s also an amazing sequence where Rocky and Ginger get caught in the pie making machine.  It’s in the spirit of Indiana Jones and adventure movies with all kinds of obstacles to conquer.  It blows my mind when you watch this scene and remember it is all done with moving clay figures inch by inch.

The ending plays out in a fairly predictable way for this genre of movie but Mrs Tweedy is pretty scary, maybe too much for some kids? As is always the case it depends on the child.

chicken run19

Thing that makes this movie special is the writing.  It is funny throughout.  Not just the homages to escape movies but the dialogue is witty and will make you laugh.  Pter Lord and Nick Park bring the same type of humor we got in Wallace and Gromit with perhaps more of a visual component added in.  (Karey Kirkpatrick is the screenwriter with a story by Lord and Park).

All the other aspects are very strong including great music by John Powell and Harry Gregson- Williams.  I particularly like “Flip, Flop, Fly” a great swing number!

Plus, I like the way the chickens look.  I like the smoothness of the skin and the feather collar and feather underneath.  To me it is a pleasing design. All the sets are incredibly detailed and intricate especially when you consider they are all done by hand (stop motion animation is unbelievable).

chicken run10I always say when I judge a comedy the number one factor is- Did it make me laugh?  The answer for Chicken Run is Yes!  I laughed back in 2000 and I laughed today watching it.  It’s a delight in every other way so I can ignore a somewhat predictable story.

For me it is a big win!

Overall Grade- A

BEST SHOT-

Hit Me with Your Best Shot can be difficult because do you pick the shot that gave you the most pleasure or the one that looks the best?  The two are not always the same.

My favorite joke in the movie is when Ginger tells the girls about the pies and Babs (the knitting chicken) says “I don’t want to be a pie.  I don’t even like gravy”.  I don’t’ know why but that cracks me up every time.

But the shot of her saying that line isn’t that great.  I will go with the line just after it and you can see the mayhem on the part of the hens at this news.  I think it is emblematic of the entire film, the claymation style and I love the expressions on the chickens faces.  So great!

chicken run12My youtube review can be found here

Favorite Non-Disney Animated Movies

Hi guys!

I just thought you might be wondering what my opinion is on non-Disney animated films.  I’m not talking Pixar,Studio Ghibli or other Disney wings because they should get their own list.  I’m talking about other studios like Dreamworks, which while not as consistently my favorites like Disney, they have made some great animated films.

So here we go in no particular order.

1. The Adventures of Tintin- underrated action adventure movie.  Yes, it is motion capture not traditional animation but I figure if it looks, feels, acts like an animated film it is an animated film.  More people should have seen this movie.  It was so entertaining!

2. The Lego Movie- one of the most visually inventive movies I’ve ever seen.  The effects with the legos blew me away.  Great voice work by whole cast, and the script is so well written. Every joke got a laugh from me and then there’s moments that were surprisingly tender.  It is the best movie I’ve seen at capturing how a child plays with their toys and how incapable adults are at understanding that play.

3. Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2- both films are very entertaining with a likable lead character, fun action, beautiful visuals, and great villains.

4. Secret of Nimh- wonderful movie featuring one of the toughest Moms in movies.  She doesn’t want to be a hero but will do anything for her son.  There’s humor, adventure and most importantly real heart.

5. Anastasia- one of the best animated romantic comedies put onto film.  Great chemistry, a fun villain, and decent music.  The story is silly but I still find it very entertaining.

6. How to Train Your Dragon- haven’t seen sequel but want to.  Original was very entertaining.  It’s a predictable story but told very well.  Great voice cast and a great heart to the story of Hiccup and his desire to please his demanding father.  The relationship between him and the dragon is very absorbing. Beautiful flying visuals.

7. Prince of Egypt- some people have problems with the changes from the Biblical story but not me. I am mad for the music, just love it and the scene where Moses communes with the burning bush is breathtaking.  I’m a huge fan of biblical epics and this stands with the best.

8. Arthur Christmas- A movie I thought looked really stupid and then totally surprised me.  Santa’s youngest son Arthur believes in bringing Christmas to every child and when he finds a girl has been missed will do anything to make it right.  I love the idea that even the North Pole has become over-commercialized for Christmas.  I love Christmas movies so this is a big win.  Great voice cast. Real heart.

9. Chicken Run- An homage to Dirty Dozen and other prison escape movies from the 50s.  Great writing and voice work.  Terrific villain and the stop motion animation is fabulous.

10. Transformers 1986- Michael Bay should be strapped down and forced to watch this movie for a week straight to understand how it should be done.  Those bloated, obnoxious mess of movies don’t have 1/10th the heart of this animated film.  Orson Wells is Optimus Prime and he is great.  It’s got action and fun characters and with every Michael Bay monstrosity it looks better and better (Transformers 2 and 3 are 2 of the worst movies I’ve ever seen.  I just can’t see 4.  It’s too much.) Boys deserve better transformers movies and this animated film gives it to them. .

11.  Charlotte’s Web- One of the best non-Disney animated musicals.  Sweet songs with great vocal performances by Debbie Reynolds and Paul Lynde.  It’s actually pretty sad but in a way that will teach kids about friendship and sacrifice.

12. Iron Giant- If you haven’t seen this film, stop what you are doing, go out and watch it.  The animation is stunning.  The story has real heart and lovely characters.  It is a total winner!

13. Paranorman- everyone who thinks I’m a total softy when it comes to darker movies will probably be surprised to find this on my list.  I like a good ghost story and this definitely fits the bill.  It’s more for teens than children.  Some of the images are pretty scary and the humor, like the jock actually being gay, is probably more for teens than little kids.  It looks amazing.  Has some genuine scares and the story surprised me.  Very well done.

14. Simpsons Movie- Everyone is always shocked to find out I love the Simpsons.  My favorite show of all time.  My brother and sister and I would watch it every week and 26 seasons later still do.  The movie is overwritten and could have been better but I still really enjoy it.  I love the characters and the HD colors add a nice touch to the movie over the TV show.  Simpsons has given me so many laughs I love it.  Lisa is my particular favorite.

15. Pirates: Band of Misfits- A movie nobody saw but I really enjoyed.  It’s funny with Charles Darwin as our unlikely hero.  The stop motion looks great and voice work is engaging.  A hidden gem!

16. Curious George- So few movies are made well for children under 5.  Curious George is one of those movies.  It is sweet and engaging with lovely songs from Jack Johnson.  One that is unabashadly for the smallest of children and yet adults won’t be miserable.

17. Lord of the Rings (Bakshi)- It’s not as good as the Peter Jackson movies but it is also a different take on an epic story.  To me there is room for multiple retellings of the Lord of the Rings and Bakshi crams a lot of story into this film.  Maybe not a masterpiece but I enjoy it.  The music is wonderful and characters engrossing.  If you like the story of Lord of the Rings give this animated version a chance.  I think this is what the Black Cauldron was trying to be and it isn’t near as successful.

18. Batman Mask of the Phantasm- Still my favorite Batman movie (yes, you read right).  Intense without being too violent.  Batman is interesting without being over-the-top.  I hate in the live action movies how the villains are always more interesting than Batman.  Not the case here.  Great animation.  Great voice work.  If you haven’t seen it and love the Nolan films give it a shot.

19. Happy Feet- A flawed film but I love the music and it is so unabashedly cheerful I enjoy it.  It’s the kind of movie I put in when I’m sick and it brightens my day.  Huge talented cast and serviceable story.

20. Charlie Brown Christmas Special- I realize this was for TV but I couldn’t not include it.  One of the best Christmas movies ever made.  Perfect soundtrack.  Lovely message and delightful characters. It focuses on the Christ message of Christmas in a way that is powerful without being overbearing.