Reviewe by GREG KING

Directors: Peter Lord and Nick Park

Stars: voices of Mel Gibson, Julia Sawalha, Miranda Richardson, Jane Horrocks, Timothy Spall, Phil Daniels, Tony Haygarth, Imelda Staunton, Lynn Ferguson, Benjamin Whitrow

Peter Lord and Nick Park, the two creators behind the Aardman animation studios and cult cartoon characters Wallace and Grommit, have signed a multi-million dollar deal with Dreamworks studios. Their first feature length film under that lucrative deal is the thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable Chicken Run, a comic tale inspired by the classic The Great Escape and films of that ilk. Chicken Run replaces humans with chickens and brilliantly exploits the clichés of the familiar prisoner-of-war drama for big laughs.

The action takes place on the Tweedy Egg Farm, a dour and foreboding place that resembles an old prisoner-of-war camp, with its neat array of huts and its regular morning inspections. The plucky Ginger (voiced by Julia Sawalha, from Absolutely Fabulous) desperately attempts to escape from the farm, but each clever endeavour ends in disaster and a spell of solitary confinement.

Hope unexpectedly arrives in the form of Rocky the Rhode Island Rooster (Mel Gibson), a brash circus refugee who reluctantly promises to teach Ginger and her friends the secret of flight. Meanwhile, Mrs Tweedy (voiced by Miranda Richardson), has grown sick and tired of earning small and minuscule profits, and decides to turn the farm into a chicken pie manufacturing plant. Suddenly the stakes are a lot higher, and Ginger puts the pressure on Rocky to live up to his end of the bargain.

Beautifully written by Park, Lord and Karey Kirkpatrick, Chicken Run crams in enough visual humour, in-jokes, puns, and clever twists to keep audiences of all ages laughing merrily. The characters are beautifully crafted, and the stop motion cinematography is brilliantly done.

The marvellous vocal cast clearly had a ball during the making of the film, and their infectious enthusiasm rubs off. In his first animation outing since Disney’s Pocahontas Gibson, brings a nicely droll style of humour to his role. Jane Horrocks is also superb as the eternally knitting, seemingly unflappable Babs, while Timothy Spall and Phil Daniels add spark as the two mischievous rats who covertly supply provisions to the hens.

On every level, Chicken Run is a brilliant technical achievement, and perfect entertainment for the holiday season. Lord and Park have made the transition to feature length film making with surprising ease, and audiences can certainly look forward to their next effort with delicious anticipation.



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