Twenty three years on from the original BAFTA-nominated Aardman animation, the Chicken Run universe finally spreads its wings and delivers a sequel. However given the extremely long time between films, the franchise is no spring chicken. The fact it is produced and distributed by Netflix, and with many of the original voice cast replaced (for a variety of reasons one might add), one might suspect a shameless cash in. Like a pop group going on a greatest hits tour with half the original band missing.
One thing that comes up time and time again with belated sequels is the phrase “we’d only do it if the story was right”. Ultimately the success of the film will live or die on whether the story is strong enough to merit the return. So is it a “cock-a-doodle-do” or “cock-a-doodle-don’t”? The answer is yes… just.
Living safe in their idyllic island paradise since the events of the first film, this peace is shattered when Ginger and Rocky’s strong-willed daughter Molly escapes the island to explore the great wide world. Partnering with a Scouse chicken to visit Fun Land Farms, which looks like an amazing place to be because “you get your own bucket” and they have both thumbs up on the picture on the side of the van. With Molly trapped inside, Ginger, Rocky and the gang must break their way in, instead of out this time round.
It is a nice spin on the original, with a prison break “in” and Ginger being forced to examine the legacy she has left for her child. It also wears its inspirations on its sleeve. Whereas the first film was a spin on The Great Escape, here they look to the work of Ethan Hunt and James Bond. As one character calls the plan, “it is an impossible mission”, another replies “don’t you mean the other way?”
The animation retains its Aardman stop motion roots but has a visible polish to it. The result is an enjoyable caper stuffed, not unlike a roast chicken, full of action and comedy. Once again, Jane Horrock’s Babs nabbing the majority of the one liners.
One realises it is a family film and therefore can’t lean too hard into the violence or certain themes, however there was perhaps a missed opportunity to truly explore the issue of where we get our food from and the treatment of the animals it comes from.
There is a funny infomercial that explains the methodology of brainwashing the chickens into being constantly happy so their meat tastes better when processed but the reality of that process still remains off-screen.
It is the lack of stakes, not steaks, that prevents the film from hitting the emotional heights required to truly make an impact. The final act brings to mind Toy Story 3. That film worked precisely because there was a genuine sense that not all the toys would survive, and that sense of peril was sorely lacking here.
Ultimately Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget is similar to the fast food in its title. A quick, bite size piece of enjoyment but one where the sensation soon fades, leaving you hungry for more
Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget is in select cinema from December 8 and streams on Netflix from December 15
Director: Sam Fell
Stars: Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson
Runtime: 97 minutes