When the computer animated family comedy genre hit it big, along came the inevitable result – what was once an almost guaranteed format has been watered down by a series of decidedly average efforts. Pixar’s almost flawless track record made other studios try to jump on the bandwagon with only minor success. With perhaps the exception of the “Shrek” films, we’ve seen an increasingly bad number of limp comedies working their way out of the gate ranging from the mediocre (Madagascar, Ice Age) to the dull (Shark Tale, Robots).
“Chicken Little”, Disney’s first post-Pixar attempt at a computer animated comedy, belongs in the latter category and shows that maybe they should’ve held onto that deal a little longer. The filmmakers have taken what is essentially a short and stretched it way too far over a 78 minute runtime, resulting in a rather thin story about how the actual tale of Chicken Little is a prelude to an HG Wells inspired alien invasion.
In order to pad it out, the film uses a lot of pop culture reference gags to try and seem clever. Whilst most misfire, the odd one does score a laugh even if overall it seems desperate to please a hip young teenage demographic – strange considering the movie seems fit only for the pre-teen crowd. There’s no sense of wit here, all the humour is very blatantly upfront – as is the very Nemo-esque moral lesson about parents loving their kids which is so beaten into an audience its painful.
What’s really lacking though is the substance, richness or subtlety of the Pixar movies which have a timeless and ‘polished with care’ sense of quality to them. Those are films that will still work ten years from now, and work on levels for all ages. In contrast ‘Chicken’ is all surface and shallow laughs, and its tone is purely for the littlies. That’s not to take away from its strengths – its comic timing is fine, its animation interesting but nothing special, and its performances solid all round. Its just that this is another example of why Pixar rules the roost of the genre – if the likes of “Nemo” and “Incredibles” were five-star restaurant meals, “Chicken” is the equivalent of KFC. Easy, quick and utterly forgettable.