Chicken Run

Chicken Run (A)   – – A Must-See for Daughters!

Years before they gave us Wallace & Gromit fighting a ware-rabbit, Aardman Studios came out with Chicken Run: a funny, soulful claymation version of The Great Escape . . . with chickens!

The plot focuses on a motley band of hens who must escape from their small, English farm or someday end up in a pie.  Their leader is the smart, plucky (sorry, I could not resist) Ginger (Julia Sawalha of Absolutely Fabulous!).  Ginger pins her escape plan on a rooster, Rocky (Mel Gibson, before he went insane).  The ne’er-do-well Rockey (you know you shouldn’t trust him because he’s American) gives the hens flying lessons.  Meanwhile, the farm owner’s wife, the greedy, evil Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson), buys a pie-making machine so that she can convert the hens into cash more quickly.  Will the hens make it out before Mrs. Tweedy’s machine is up and running?!

What’s phenomenal about this movie are its female characters.  Since we are dealing with a bunch of egg-layers, the script does not just offer the usual, paltry one or two female characters (mom and girlfriend).  Instead, we get an almost-all-girl production with well-drawn, funny women: the scatter-brained, chubby Babs (Jane Horrocks); the brainy, bespectacled mechanic with a Scottish brogue (Lynn Ferguson); and the nay-sayer Bunty (Imelda Staunton).  Best of all is Ginger.  Smart and nimble enough to have escaped on her own, Ginger is determined to free every last one of her sisters from Tweedy Farm.  She’s pragmatic, honest, and – – rare for a female heroine – – completely focused on her task.  Rather than waiting for Rocky to come to the rescue, Ginger makes it possible for the chickens to save themselves.  And again, because we’re dealing with claymation chickens, Ginger’s greatness does not hinge on looks (she’s not “the hot chicken”).  Your girls can idolize Ginger without risk of developing an eating disorder someday.  But, parents be warned: you might get some questions about vegetarianism (relax, the questions are way worse after Babe).  This movie is a must-see if you have daughters!

Nightmare Alerts!  There are three scares in this movie: when Mrs. Tweedy picks out one hen to become supper, when Ginger and Rocky almost perish in the pie-making machine, and when Mrs. Tweedy tries to foil the big escape by coming after Ginger.  Mrs. Tweedy – – who looks like a mean version of Olive Oyl – – might be too scary for the 5-and-under set.

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