In 2005, Disney made a huge, technological leap forward, promising to forever leave the antiquated world of hand-drawn animation behind and boldly move into the amazing, new world of CGI, with its brand-new, smash hit, critically acclaimed blockbuster animated movie, Chicken Little. Or at least, that’s what Disney was hoping.
While Chicken Little did help to reverse Disney’s financial slump after the failures of Home on the Range and Treasure Planet, it was basically a critical failure, and to this day, is regarded as one of the worst in Disney’s official animated canon. But is it really that bad? We’ll see.
Chicken Little starts out with the beginning of the classic story: Chicken Little has something fall on his head, but no one will believe him. He sends the town into a panic with his cries of “The sky is falling!” But with no proof to back up his dire warnings, the town basically turned him into a laughing stock, and his “mistake” has haunted him to this day.
A year later, and Chicken Little is basically the most hated person in the town of Oaky Oaks. Like literally. People literally hate him and make his life miserable. And it’s not just bullies. It also includes his teachers, coaches, and everyone who really should be helping to protect him from the bullies. The town apparently even makes a full-length movie about the incident!
Chicken Little has a very strained relationship with his father, who never believed him during the falling-sky incident and is utterly embarrassed by him. Chicken Little is trying his hardest to put the past behind him and regain his father’s trust, including trying out for the baseball team, where he is once again treated like dirt.
His luck seems to change when he hits a game-winning home run, but that night, after he makes great strides in making up with his father, he is hit with another “piece of the sky”, destroying any chance he has of being normal.
Chicken Little calls his friends—Abby Mallard, Runt of the Litter, and Fish Out of Water—to come over to see this thing, which seems to have advanced camouflaging capabilities. In the process, it is accidentally activated and flies away, taking Fish with it.
Chicken Little, Abby, and Runt give chase and discover that the piece of the sky is actually a panel from a spaceship, where Fish is currently lost. The three friends enter the ship to rescue Fish, but while they are searching, they accidentally awaken a baby alien who decides to follow them.
They find and rescue Fish, but the baby alien’s parents are terrified and enraged to find that their baby is gone, seemingly kidnapped by the earthling intruders. They give chase, and the friends escape, running back to town to ring the alarm bell, where they are once again met with disbelief and derision. Until the aliens call for backup and attack.
The next day, the town is thrown into panic when everything that Chicken Little and his friends had told then is revealed to have been true. The aliens come back with a vengeance, zapping everything in sight, seemingly evaporating the townsfolk, buildings—you name it.
Chicken Little, his father, and Abby all end up hiding with the alien baby, where Abby finally gets Chicken Little and his father to make up. They have an emotional reconciliation, but not long after, they too are zapped and evaporated.
However, this is not the end. It was not a disintegration ray but a teleportation beam, and all the evaporated characters are being held inside a huge anti-gravity chamber. Here, the alien father confronts Chicken Little and his father about the kidnapping of his son. When he is about to kill them, the baby and his mother stop him, telling him that they are innocent. The aliens then let them go, apologize, rebuild the town, and fly away.
At the end of the movie, the townsfolk make another film about Chicken Little, but this time it’s a sprawling sci-fi epic, with Chicken Little as the handsome hero and Abby as his hot girlfriend, with Fish and Runt as his alien-fighting crew. The entire town watches the film together, and as the credits roll, all the characters have a big dance party.
If you had asked me last week what I thought of Disney’s Chicken Little, I would have told you I liked it, and I did not understand why so many people hated it. However, I had not watched in about ten years. Then I watched it for this review. Now I completely understand. Last week I liked it, now…I’m not sure what I think.
The first half of the movie is almost undeniably awful. The writing is terrible, and treatment of Chicken Little is dreadful. It’s actually almost disturbing how horrible everyone is to him, especially when you consider that it’s supposed to be a hilarious joke.
The characters are almost all completely one dimensional, and the ones who aren’t are completely predictable. And don’t even get me started on the dialogue. The movie tries SO hard to be hilarious. Especially in the first half, the animal puns and clichéd jokes are everywhere. The problem is most of them do not work. I did laugh at the endless supply of baby rabbits in the baby carriage, and the stork that kept running into the glass, but that was about it. The cow tipping and the goat lawnmower jokes were trying way too hard, and those were at the higher end of the comedy spectrum. It just went downhill from there.
The real problem with the movie is that it does not feel like Disney. It feels a lot more like a mid 2000’s DreamWorks movie. The cheesy jokes, the tired references, the extreme overuse of “popular” music—it even has an utterly pointless character dance montage during the credits, just like a DreamWorks film!
However, even with all the writing failures, the tired clichés, and the poor characters, I can’t completely hate this movie. I actually really enjoy the second half, so much so, that before I rewatched the movie today, that’s all I remembered. I had completely forgotten about the baseball game, the strained father/son relationship, and how annoying most of the characters were. All I remembered, and the reason why I liked it so much, was the pretty decent science fiction story.
I thought that having the piece of the sky being a panel from an alien spacecraft was actually a really smart idea, and I loved that they turned a classic story into a science fiction action-adventure. I love Treasure Planet for the same reason, even though that is, hands down, a far superior film.
The special effects on the alien technology, especially the cloaking panels, was very creative, and while the CGI definitely looks dated, it still holds up better than I expected it to. Some of the characters are poorly modeled, but the ones that count are better than average, though I do wish that they would have put a little more work into Abby and Runt.
All in all, Chicken Little is not a great film. The first half is almost terrible, while the second half is semi-decent. Evening it all out, I’d say it’s just an okay film, but it is definitely on the very low end of the Disney canon lineup.
Chicken Little is, more than anything, a whole lot of wasted potential. If they had had a decent writer, gotten rid of at least half of the pop music, shed most of the useless characters, maybe even completely cut Fish and Runt, this could have been a really entertaining movie. Instead, it just kind of falls flat. While I liked a good portion of it, I completely understand why so many people do not. At best, it’s basically innocuous fun for kids, but do not expect this movie to stand up with the likes of other Post-Renaissance films like Lilo and Stitch or The Emperor’s New Groove.
What about you? What do you think of Chicken Little? Do you find it as awful as everyone seems to think, or are you one of the few fans?
Edited by: Kelly Conley