How many of you remember Chicken Run, the stop-motion animated film from the early 2000s? I’m sure almost everyone my age has at least heard of the film, if not a distinct memory of the film from DreamWorks Animation’s early days. The animated film landscape at the time was an interesting one, to say the least, with Disney still ruling with an iron fist, however, studios like DreamWorks were beginning to make a name for themselves. The original Chicken Run predated the release of Shrek, which is argumentably one of the most successful franchises from the studio. Considered a success on many fronts, some of you may be wondering why it took 20 years for the sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, to come to fruition.
Thanks to Netflix and Aardman Animations, the latter who made the original as well as the Wallace and Gromit franchise, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is just around the corner with an all-new adventure with everyone’s favorite chickens. Directed by Sam Fell (Flushed Away, The Tale of Despereaux, ParaNorman) with a screenplay from Karey Kirkpatrick (James and the Giant Peach, Over the Hedge, and Mrs. Doubtfire the Musical), John O’Farrell (Something Rotten! and Mrs. Doubtfire the Musical), and Rachel Tunnard, this sequel looks to recapture the glory of this beloved franchise. Can Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget succeed on that front? Read on to find out.
[Warning: Light spoilers and impressions from Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget are below!]
Ginger’s motivations change with motherhood in Dawn of the Nugget
Fans of the original will remember the epic story of Ginger (Julie Sawalha), the brave little chicken who decides to break out of the Tweedy farm. Their desire for sanctuary is understandable, as the alternative was being baked into a pie and sold at the market. I’m sure you can understand why Ginger preferred to run away. Having defeated the Tweedys, Ginger and her partner, Rocky the American Circus Rooster (Mel Gibson) seek refuge on a bird sanctuary island, living happily ever after.
However, life on the island has changed Ginger (now voiced by Thandiwe Newton) in many ways. For starters, she and Rocky (now voiced by Zachary Levi) have a daughter, Molly (Bella Ramsey). Molly’s the perfect blend of her parents, adventurous like her father and headstrong like her mother. This combination puts her in direct conflict with Ginger, who now appears to be ruled by fear since having a child. She’s experiencing symptoms of PTSD from her time on the Tweedy farm, specifically of the cruelty of Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson). She’s worried about losing her daughter to the unruly humans.
Molly, on the other hand, can’t stand how overbearing her parents are. She wants freedom from the chicken sanctuary, dreaming about a life that is actually worth living. When the humans begin to come closer to home, Ginger and the rest of the adult chickens decide hiding is the best option. Molly has other ideas, however. With the help of her new friend Frizzle (Josie Sedgewick-Davies), she sets off to find the happiest place on Earth for a chicken. But of course, not everything is what it seems.
Can Ginger, Rocky, along with the rest of the chickens and friends living on the bird sanctuary island save Molly and Frizzle from the human world? Or is their future looking deep-fried and nuggety? You’ll have to watch Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget when it arrives on Netflix on December 15 to see how this all shakes out!
Positives and negatives of Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
A common worry about sequels is that they are never as good as the original. While that doesn’t hold true for every sequel (take Shrek 2 and Toy Story 3 as examples) it’s not uncommon that sequels to beloved films never quite capture the magic of the first. That being said, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget was well worth the two-decade wait.
While I haven’t seen the original Chicken Run in forever, this sequel holds up against the one in my head. I was grinning from ear to ear the entire 90-ish minutes as if I were a child once again. The story is entertaining, although not groundbreaking. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is your typical-animated film with a basic story full to the brim of jokes and heart. So if you’re looking for something that is going to revolutionize stop-motion films, clearly this film isn’t for you. However, for me, all I need is to be entertained in the slightest by a children’s movie, and I’m set, and this film does just that.
I love the natural progression of Ginger’s character, who has a bit more anxiety and fear than she had in the first film. Gone are the days when she’s willing to throw away anything for freedom, she now has her daughter to think about. That being said, you still see that strong personality underneath the surface, waiting for the right moments to pop up and save the day.
The scene between Ginger and Molly, when the latter realizes her mother is every ounce of the hero that she believed her to be. That moment is golden, and I think any parent watching that will be touched by the sentiment, and aspire to be more like Ginger for their children.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget features some casting changes, with Thandiwe Newton taking over as Ginger and Zachary Levi as Rocky. Again, it might be because I haven’t seen the first one in so long, but I didn’t notice too much of a change from one film to another. I was impressed by Levi’s portrayal of Rocky and even thought this might be one of the better roles in which I’ve seen him. I’m sure some purists would have liked to see Gibson return as Rocky, but Levi is perfectly adequate as the obnoxious rooster.
Over the years, I haven’t hidden my disinterest in stop-motion, it’s one of my least favorite mediums of storytelling. Which might raise a few eyebrows seeing that I’m reviewing this film. However, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget blew me away with the quality of the art. I remember other films from my childhood that felt clunky with the movement. It took me out of the film for some reason. However, the style in this film was smooth. So much so that I wondered if it was CGI’d to look like stop-motion instead of actual stop-motion. The characters move fluidly, just the same as in The Super Mario Bros Movie or Luca, but have the texture and appearance of traditional claymation.
The world of Chicken Run 2 is also incredibly vibrant. It just pops off the screen in ways I don’t associate with old-school stop-motion. Even the giant peach in James in the Giant Peach didn’t catch my attention the way small details, like a character’s hat, grabbed my attention and brought joy to my heart. The entire film from start to finish made me feel like a kid again, something that perhaps something that so many of us adults are missing. For that reason alone, Dawn of the Nugget should be on your radar.
However, it should be noted that this film isn’t for everyone. It’s chock-full of British humor, which might not catch some children’s attention. British humor tends to be a bit dry, however, as someone who is an avid lover of British shows and comedies, this fits in perfectly with my niche. Furthermore, I was surprised at how dark some humor could get, especially when you look at the dire situation the chickens end up in as the story progresses. For some, that might be enough to stop their children from watching, but the humor isn’t so dry or dark that it overshadows the positive messages and enjoyment of the film.
Final thoughts on Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
Overall, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is a great film for families who are looking for a little cheer over the holiday season. While some jokes are a bit dark, the vast majority of the film is a fun romp with some hilarious characters. If your children are like my nephews, they will laugh from start to finish and be quoting this film.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget arrives on Netflix on December 15. Do you plan to check it out? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!