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The Media Man Reviews: Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

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This was a sequel nobody expected to see and didn't think would ever be made, yet here we are.


Released in 2000, Chicken Run was one of Aardman Animations biggest hits ever released. It was critically acclaimed and with a Box Office gross of $227.8 million worldwide, it remains Aardman Animation's highest grossing movie and the highest grossing stop-motion animated film in history. Lord knows that record's NEVER going to be topped since stop-motion movies never make money anymore!


Even Aardman seems to have acknowledged that they have no hopes of turning a profit in cinemas anymore for they're basically going straight to streaming instead, hence here we are with Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.


This movie had a mixed reaction when it was announced. Some people were excited for a sequel whereas some like me asked "Why does this need to exist?". I still feel this way now. Why do we need a sequel to Chicken Run of all movies? Who was demanding a sequel to Chicken Run and is it really necessary we get one? It also didn't help when Aardman got themselves in a load of bother for recasting Julia Sawalha as Ginger for the ridiculous reason that she's "too old" now. So yeah, I wasn't too enthusiastic about this sequel if I can be honest.


But who knows, maybe it's actually going to be good? Aardman Animations to have a good track record with their movies so you never know. So is this Chicken Run sequel worth the return to the chicken flock? Or should we roast this thing alive and eat it for dinner? Let's find out as we fly into Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget...


Section 1: The Story


Set after the events of the first movie, the story follows Ginger and Rocky as they live their lives free of the Tweedy farm and raising up their newborn chick, Molly. Unfortunately, Molly gets too adventurous for her own good and winds up in a facilty that will turn chickens into chicken nuggets. Last time they broke out of a farm, now this time they have to break IN in order to rescue Molly and the other chickens. But Ginger will see that an old enemy has resurfaced, thus making this situation more dangerous than she thought...


I actively GROANED when watching the trailers to this movie because the story sounded like the most generic paint-by-numbers story in the history of movies. I even felt like I saw the whole movie after watching said trailers! And watching the movie itself, I felt no different. The story is basically the same as last time, only the situation is flipped around. As Ginger herself put it, last time they broke out of a farm now this time, they're breaking in. Really guys? THIS was the best you could come up with for a Chicken Run sequel? Just a retread of the original movie but with a break-in instead of a break-out? As such, the movie is super predictable from top to bottom, which makes it a very uninteresting watch overall. Seriously, you can tell how this plot's going to go from the moment Molly hatches out of her egg:


We have the cast in a happy setting? Check. The main characters have a child? Check. The child wants to explore the world outside but their parents forbid it? Check. The child goes anyway and gets into trouble? Check! The cast have to get the child out of trouble and save the day again? CHECK. MATE! Just absolutely no originality to this story whatsoever and it's so boring as a result.


But of course, it's execution that's the most important thing in a movie as even a generic story can be engaging if told well. So is it told well? I'd say it is for the most part. There's nothing inherently bad about the story-telling here and it's not like the story is terribly told or what not. It's just that it's so predictable and paint-by-numbers that it's not very interesting to watch. All you end up doing while watching it is just counting the tropes and cliches as they come and that doesn't exactly make for a good viewing experience. But at the very least I can say the film does well as a parody of heist and spy movies the same way that the original was a parody of prison break movies. The story does have fun with the concept and it is at least enjoyable to watch the familiar cast of Chicken Run in this kind of setting and the writers and animators take advantage of the concept by giving us some creative action and set-pieces so there is at least SOMETHING engaging about the movie.


Also you'll be glad to hear that the film stays very true to the tone of the original Chicken Run. While it is definitely more light-hearted by comparison, the film still has its occasional dark moments that feel true to the original movie with one especially effective scene being where a chicken is made into nuggets and Ginger has to get Molly to focus on her while the sounds of meat grinding are heard in the background. That felt like a dark scene we'd see in the original and I thought they executed it well. At the same time, it also keeps true to the humour of Chicken Run too. There's more emphasis on slapstick comedy than last time but it IS effective and there's still the great comedic timing that made it work so well and we also have Aardman's trademark British sense of humour at play too with all kinds of other jokes in the movie. The funniest bit for me was when Mrs. Tweedy has all the chickens marching on their way to be made into nuggest while Cliff Richard's "Summer Holiday" blares in the background. Never expected to hear that in a Chicken Run movie but OK! XD


Thankfully they don't do any modern style of humour which prevents the sequel feeling dated and it even stays true to the timeless feel of the original movie as a result. They could've made it feel more updated but they didn't and that's at least a massive plus in its favour. I can't tell you how much I would've sighed if they had the chickens referencing memes or using iPhones or stuff like that.


But despite the story being decently told in spite of its generic as all hell premise and the humour being great, there's one thing about the story that absolutely does my head in, and that's Mrs. Tweedy's return. The most I'll say is that they pulled a Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker with her. She's just...back and everyone's supposed to accept it with no questions asked. Seriously, the story could've at least bothered to explain how the hell she survived a door falling on top of her last time! I'm not buying for a minute that she survived that!


So with a painfully generic story that is essentially a role-reversal of the original movie that brings back its villain without even bothering to explain how she's back, I find myself asking the same question I asked when this movie was announced: Why does this need to exist? Because with how much the story just didn't try here, it further justifies why Chicken Run didn't need a sequel, because giving it a sequel gave us this dull movie that is only saved from being terrible because of the creative setpieces and the funny humour. They really should've kept it as a single movie because if the plots are going to be as generic as this, then Chicken Run really doesn't need a sequel...


Section 2: The Characters


The cast of Chicken Run are back and while it's nice to see some familair faces again, it's not enough to save this lost cause of a story.


We have our head hen-cho...sorry, I mean head honcho of the group, Ginger (voiced by Thandiwe Newtwon). Ginger is now just the typical over-protective mother who wants to keep her daughter sheltered from the world outside and is clearly still shaken by her past experiences on Tweedy's farm. Her arc is as straight-forward as it gets so you won't get many surprises with her. Though it is amusing when we get to see her going loopy after being fitted with a collar. Oh and if you're curious, Thandiwe was an alright replacement for Julia Sawalha and her voice makes Ginger sound a little older so it didn't feel too out of place. But there was still no need to replace her in my eyes.


We also have her husband, Rocky (voiced by Zachery Levi). I dunno if it's just me, but I feel like they made Rocky a bit dumber than in the original movie and it's kind of annoying as a result, though he still gets his occasional moments to shine so it's not like they made him borderline useless now or something. I do like how devoted a husband and father he is and they make him just as keen to save Molly as Ginger is. Some sequels will make characters like Rocky lousy parents or something like that but thankfully they didn't do that to Rocky. Also Zachery Levi gives a great performance here and was the perfect replacement for Mel Gibson.


And we have the old crew back again consisting of Bunty (voiced by Imelda Staunton), Babs (vocied by Jane Harrocks), Mac (voiced by Lynn Ferguson), Fowler (voiced by David Bradley), Nick (voiced by Romesh Ranganathan) and Fetcher (voiced by Daniel Mays). They're all the same as they were before and haven't changed a bit, but I mean that in a good way as it means they're as fun and enjoyable as they were before. Even their personalities are spot on to last time though I feel they made Fowler a bit too much of a joke compared to last time.


And finally in terms of returning characters, there's Mrs. Tweedy (voiced by Miranda Richardson). She was the one character who absolutely did NOT need to come back for this film. Seriously, they could've just made Dr. Fry or Reginald Smith the villains here and nothing would change. All Mrs. Tweedy's return did was create the giant plot hole of her miraculous return despite clearly getting crushed to death at the end of the first film and nothing justifies her existence here. This story did not need her to come back whatsoever just like how Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker didn't need Palpatine to return. It says a lot when the only positive to her return here is that I'm glad they got Miranda Richardson back to voice her. She's always enjoyable.


As for the new characters, they haven't got much worth talking about because they're as generic and straight-forward as you can get. Ginger and Rocky's new child Molly (voiced by Bella Ramsey) is the typical kid who wants to see the world outside and rebels against her parents because kids in movies are ungrateful little buggers like that, Frizzle (voiced by Josie Sedgwick-Davies) is Molly's friend who needs to be saved by the end and Dr. Fry (voiced by Nicok Mohammad) and Reginald Smith (voiced by Peter Serafinowicz) are just the new villains who are just that, the new villains. Any description I can give of the two starts and ends there.


While it's nice to see some familiar faces again, the characters don't have much to offer compared to last time. All they do is play generic roles and have predictable arcs that makes them nowhere near as engaging as before and the new characters barely add anything new to the Chicken Run universe. If you enjoy these characters so much, then just watch the first movie again because you're not getting much out of them here...


Section 3: The Animation


Finally, something I can talk about that's great about this movie. Say what you will about the story and characters (which I already have) but the animation is what saves the movie from being terrible and feeling like a waste in the end.


Aardman Animations show they still haven't missed a step with their trademark claymation animation style and it's so refreshing to still see it in action even in this day and age where nearly all animation is CGI now. And we can safely say that they haven't lost a step when it comes to animating the Chicken Run cast either for it's like 23 years never passed for them. The character designs are extremely true to before with the chickens all having that same lovable Aardman style they had before and while the models might look a little smoother in appearance than before and the colour palette on all of them seems brighter than the original movie, they still look as they did in the past, almost as if the models were still kept after all these years. The returning characters look the same as before except for Mrs. Tweedy where she's given a new uniform and seems to wear more make-up than last time and the new ones fit right into the Chicken Run world as if they've always been a part of it. I especially like how they made Molly and Frizzle look.


The character animation is also spot on to the original movie too. You have the cartoony looking chickens with their own individual personalities and designs to them where they're easy to tell apart and their movements match their characters from the determined and brave Ginger to the laid back and cool Rocky to the old and cantankerous Fowler and much more. Even the way Mrs. Tweedy is animated harkens back to the original, only she's depicted with a more fragile psyche than before and is a little more "animated" as a result if you get what I mean. Her facial expressions are especially excellent and I loved watching them.


And of course the sets and backgrounds are terrific here. The animators really put a lot of work in them you can see and it looks great onscreen. You have the quiet island that our heroes live on after escaping from Tweedy's farm which looks idyllic, peaceful and pretty, which further sells why the cast are so happy living there. I even kinda want to live with them because of how nice it looks there. And then you get the chicken factory itself where it looks more like a supervillain lair with its exaggerated architecture and over-the-top security features. This fits well with this movie going in the spy-movie or heist movie genre and the place itself is brilliantly designed. The animators did well in bringing the place to life and showing us how everything works and even adding sinister undertones to the place, namely the colourful fun place with all the chickens around and the collars they wear forcing them to be happy. It's the perfect example of "too good to be true" and it's no wonder Molly wants to escape after seeing it's not as inviting as it looks. The factory itself also lends to some creative action scenes and setpieces, namely the scene in the corn silo where popcorn of all things ends up saving the day. It makes more sense in context, believe me.


Oh and speaking of action, the stop-motion style still proves to be effective in making cool action scenes despite the animators working with clay figures and model sets. The locations manage to feel really huge which helps sell the action scenes that are happening like the scenes in the factory and they're able to pull off speed well despite it being stop-motion. Anytime the characters have to go fast, they make it look convincing and I often wonder how they pull it off in this animation style. Needless to say, like the original movie you get your time's worth when it comes to great looking animation.


Aardman may not be doing so great in terms of story with their movies lately, but they're sitll capable of pulling off very impressive looking claymation and I'm glad their signature style isn't going away anytime soon. It's always a treat to see after so many computer animated media and if you love watching Aardman movies, the animation will give you something to enjoy at least...


Overall


Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is the most OK movie I've ever seen in my life. The story is OK, the characters are OK and the animation, while more than OK, isn't enough to save this film. This is a sequel that doesn't need to exist and now it exists, I can only question why it does because it just wasn't worth bringing Chicken Run back. It's clear the only reason this thing exists is because Aardman clearly needs a cash grab because there's no other reason why this needed to be made. There are movies that just don't need sequels and should stay as solo films and Chicken Run is one of them. I wouldn't even recommend this to Chicken Run fans because of how much of a waste it feels to watch. Just stick with the original, you'll have a better time with that one and its existence is actually worthwhile. The sequel on the other hand didn't need to exist and Aardman Animations could've put their resources towards making something more unique and interesting instead of a sequel nobody asked for...


And that's it for this review. I hope you enjoyed it and I invite you all to comment down below. Do you like this movie? Do you not like it? Do let me know.


Join me tomorrow as me and my friend, The Wandering Fox, carry out a retrospective essay on the Doctor Who 60th Anniversary Specials. See you then media fans!


3 Comments


mrdarkcatify
mrdarkcatify
Dec 21, 2023

Nice review.


Yeah, I have to agree on sequel doesn't need to be here with story as well Mrs. Tweedy returning is pretty unnecessary as she was got crashed by FREAKING DOOR! That's might be good reason I'll pass on this one and revisiting original instead it's same goes for DreamWorks's Shrek and Pixar's Toy Story as they too didn't need sequel after sequel.


I mean does take few years to happened unexpected yet we fans don't want it! lol


But that been said, it's good to see our old mentionable characters form first once again as well Aardman's famous stop-motion is still here and well makes me happy!


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I didn't expect this movie to get a sequel as the movie ended up largely resolved by the end. I love to have new stop motion films as it is an underused genre, but for that effort they better make it a good movie instead of a meh.

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Yeah, not interested mate. This doesn't really give me any reason to watch the sequel.

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