The Disney Marathon: ‘Chicken Little’


For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 9 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise the lists.

This week the Disney Wheel landed on Chicken Little, which I hadn’t seen. I didn’t want to see it. Now I have seen it. Let’s discuss.

Film: Chicken Little

Released: 2005

Director: Mark Dindal

Cast: Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Steve Zhan, Gary Marshall, Amy Sedaris, Sir Patrick Stewart, Patrick Warburton, Wallace Shawn

Plot: Chicken Little is an anxious young boy who achieves local infamy after a wild claim that the sky is falling. A year later he has a chance at redemption when he discovers the ‘falling sky’ was part of an alien flying saucer.

Review: This one stings a little. I fond of the story of ‘Chicken Little’ as a child. Had a really cool book where it’s staged as a play. And this movie is awful.

I can see what happened. Disney was feeling kinda down. They’d tried doing something new and it hadn’t landed especially well. So they went back to their usual material, but the magic had gone. They were depressed and their friends were too busy to catch up. They always seemed to be doing something with Dreamworks, the cool new guy in town. Our friends had time for both of us, right? We had some problems with Dreamworks but that’s no reason to exclude you from hanging out.

Fine. If they want Dreamworks, we’ll give them Dreamworks! We’ll make pop culture references! We’ll make our characters ugly outsiders! We’re get the Bare Naked Ladies on the soundtrack! We’ll beat them at their own game! Ha!

Then they failed.

Humour is subjective, but most would agree that there’s very few jokes that land here. Chicken Little leans heavily into the ‘cringe’ comedy popularised by The Office is poorly implemented. Much of the rest of the humour comes in the form of forced quirkiness with few actual punchlines to round them out. They also do the tired old Saturday Night Fever reference that so many film-makers think children need in their movies. It’s not like the parent’s taking their kids to see a movie in 2005 have actually seen a disco movie from 1978.

Perhaps if there’s a solid story then the jokes can be replaced with a heartfelt tale. Unfortunately it fails in this regard almost as much as it does in the humour department. The movie takes an unforgivably long time to get to the actual point. Instead it makes messy attempts to develop character (we’ll come back to this) and pads the story out by repeating the same points over and over. We see straight up that Chicken Little (Braff) has turned himself into a social embarrassment and it has put a strain on his relationship with his father. We learn that his father was a successful baseball player when he was in school and was a town hero.

Even after this is all set up and made clear we are forced to endure a stretched out, unfunny scene where Chicken Little (is that his name? He has a different surname from his father…) tries to impress his father by playing baseball. We get subjected to a long montage of Chicken being benched for the entire season. For no reason. Eventually he gets up to play and we have to watch him keep failing until, apropos of nothing, he makes an astounding play and his father is proud of him. This 10 or 15 minutes of dull screen time only repeats information we already had. All it does it add to the running time, which is the last thing this movie needs.

By the time aliens actually do show up and the plot goes some what to starting the movie is roughly half over and the sudden shift in tone is jarring to the point of confusion.

Ultimately everything hinges on the likability of Chicken himself. The movie want him to be viewed as a wacky, resourceful and clever kid who is unfairly maligned by the people of their town, but he’s an annoying little shit. He doesn’t give any thought to other people and his over-reaction to the ‘sky falling’ results in such chaos that it’ll be unreasonable to think people didn’t die as a result. His love interest is the Ugly Duckling from a similar fable, but the others are derived from idioms for some reason (Runt of the Litter and Fish out of Water). None of them are likable.

This movie bombed pretty hard, and for good reason. Disney’s animation department is at its best when they’re pushing boundaries and setting trends, not trying to play catch-up with a lesser studio.

What really stood out as unusual is the appearance of Sir Patrick Stewart in a small role as a teacher. This may seem to be an odd bit of casting, but Stewart had been desperate for a Disney role and had previously tried out for (in order) the Horned King, Basil the Great Mouse Detective, Francis in Oliver and Co., King Triton, Cogsworth, Jafar, Zazu, Ratcliffe, Frollo, Zeus and Clayton.

Weirdest Trivia: For much of the production Chicken Little was a female character. Holly Hunter had recorded all the dialogue for the character before being replaced with Zach Braff.

Rating: ONE out of TEN. A harsh score, but this whole movie comes from a misguided place.

THE RANKING

ME

This immediately goes to the bottom of the list for its incomprehensible story-telling, crappy jokes and annoying characters. I can’t imagine that it’s going to give that spot up anytime soon.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  3. Emperor’s New Groove
  4. Fantasia
  5. Chicken Little

AMELIA

Amelia was kinder to this film, enjoying the cute design of the characters. Still landed pretty low on the list, however.

  1. Emperor’s New Groove
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  4. Chicken Little
  5. Fantasia

JOSHUA

Like me, Josh very quickly put this movie on the bottom of his list because it takes so long for anything to happen.

  1. Big Hero 6
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. Fantasia
  4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  5. Chicken Little