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Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Chicken Little

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Zach Braff voices the plucky Chicken Little, who brings shame to his family by setting off panic in his small town by telling everyone that the sky is falling. Only, the sky really did fall, but no one, not even his dad, believes him.

Alas, it’s stale in the wake of two folk- and fairy-tale-skewering Shreks. In fact, most everything in Disney’s first CGI-movie feels like a rehash of other, better-written and far more original kiddy comedies.

Gary Marshall voices the dad, Buck Cluck, whose character embodies a cocktail of unoriginality: He’s a widower (what’s the deal with dead moms in Disney tales?) and town hero who can’t express his feelings or deal with his son’s emotions, let alone trust him to do anything right. Ah, the old animated movie standby, the if-I-could-only-please-pops line. There’s nothing like it to tug at the old heartstrings. Sniff. Sniff. There’s even that pinnacle moment when Buck Cluck has to suck it up and trust in Chicken Little. More sniffs.

Even a supporting cast of sidekick all-stars that reads like a character actor hall of fame — Amy Sedaris, Steve Zahn, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Catherine O’Hara and Patrick Warburton — doesn’t do much for Chicken Little. None of the supporting characters really comes to life, and the funniest of them is the break dancing, miming, goofball Fish out of Water who doesn’t talk.

So what if the animators got the surface of a car so shiny you can almost see your reflection, or that sidewalks look gravelly enough to skin a knee? It may be high-tech, but Chicken Little — like most of Disney’s recent hand-drawn flicks — lacks a compelling story that’ll stand up well after the CGI “wow” factor has faded.

You don’t have to look that far back to find it, either. Remember 1989’s Little Mermaid? The animation isn’t all that spectacular by today’s standards of capturing every feather on a duck’s butt, yet the story captivates and captures kids’ imaginations, not just pacifies them with fart jokes, silly sight gags and flashy action sequences, as does Chicken Little.

Clare Pfeiffer Ramsey writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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