2000's, Chicken Run, Comedy, Imelda Staunton, Jane Horrocks, Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Miranda Richardson, Phil Daniels, stop motion, Timothy Spall
Peter Lord & Nick Park
- Julia Sawalha as Ginger
- Mel Gibson as Rocky
- Miranda Richardson as Mrs. Tweedy
- Tony Haygarth as Mr. Tweedy
- Jane Horrocks as Babs
- Imelda Staunton as Bunty
- Lynn Ferguson as Mac
- Benjamin Whitrow as Fowler
- Timothy Spall as Nick
- Phil Daniels as Fetcher
Synopsis: A band of desperate chickens trapped in a prison-like farm, seek the help of a cocky American rooster in order to escape from being made into chicken pies by their sadistic owner and her oafish husband.
A glorious stop-motion send-up to Prisoner of War movies such as “The Great Escape”, Chicken Run possesses something for every one of every age to enjoy. It has the comedy to engage young children but a serious, emotional side that adults can equally relate to. There is humour, pathos and thrilling action sequences that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The stop-motion is just fantastic to look at.
The main aspect I liked about this film was the array of different characters. The film establishes the five man band rule commonly featured in Prison Dramas;
- There is the main focal point and hero Ginger
- The perfect foil to the hero Rocky
- The big guy and local cynic Bunty
- The ditzy chick of the bunch Babs
- The smart one in the form of Scottish Mac
The old school Fowler, who always speaks of his RAF days, acts as a mentor to the other chickens as he introduces discipline to them and eventually comes up with the main method of escape.
This reminded me of how humans are usually in one way or another put into groups such as this with each individual having a unique or special quality. I also think that the various nods to POW films are funny and inventive, this is clearly shown in the opening scene in which Ginger and the others attempt another escape at night, only to be thwarted by Tweedy and her two evil dogs. The scene is a clear homage (and spoof) of “The Great Escape”.
Whilst the humour is hysterical throughout the film, there are equally emotional and sad moments as well. The many escape attempts of the chickens make the audience feel sympathy for them. One of the most memorable scenes occurs near the beginning of the film; the chickens have all lined up as the evil Mrs. Tweedy comes to inspect their egg count. The scene is reminiscent of POW films in the set-up of the chickens behind a chain-link fence and being under the rule of another power. The scene is deliberately filmed from low-angle shots to give the sense that Mrs. Tweedy is the one in control and the chickens are cowering beneath her. As she continues to menacingly patrol up and down the lines, she notices on her records a shortage of eggs from a certain chicken named Edwina. The terrified Edwina is then taken away to what all of the chickens refer to as “The Chop”, in other words where they are to be killed. Ginger leaves the line and climbs to the roof of one of the pens. Although we don’t actually see Edwina being killed (we just see the shadow of Tweedy raising the axe), it’s the sad reaction of the other chickens as the thud of the axe comes down that leaves a lump in the throat and a tear in the eye. The scene is further saddened as an upset Ginger watches a flock of birds fly over the fence, symbolizing her desire to escape from the farm and live in freedom.
Rocky the Rhode Island Red
Despite this, or maybe because of it, Ginger tries to boost morale with another escape attempt, to which the others are not so sure. This leads the way for the arrival of Rocky, a rooster who, unbeknownst to the rest of the chickens, can’t fly but has been blasted from a cannon as part of a circus act. He promises to teach them how to fly but later has a crisis of judgment with himself. Rocky makes for an interesting character as shown by his brittle arguments with his polar opposite Ginger. He is the perfect foil to the character of Ginger. They are like chalk and cheese in terms of personality.
Tweedy’s evil plan
One of the most exciting sequences comes after the arrival of the pie machine. Before this, the selfish and heartless Mrs. Tweedy has grown tired of collecting eggs and seeks a new way of making money for herself. With the machine built, Tweedy wants to test it out and takes Ginger to be the first victim. The reaction of the other chickens as they panic intensely lightens the mood before the action begins. Rocky then decides to rescue her and he silently enters the farm. Ginger is strapped to restraints as the machine starts and edges her closer towards the dropping chute. The music that underscores this scene adds an adventurous and action-packed feeling. Rocky then finds himself searching for Ginger whilst trying to avoid the various instruments of death such as the roller to flatten the pastry. To slow the machine down, Rocky sticks a carrot into the gravy producer causing the pressure to rise. After finding themselves in the oven, Rocky falls into the pies whilst Ginger manages to find the exit. To stop the exit from closing Ginger uses a spanner to wedge it open; she then goes back and manages to save Rocky just in the nick of time. After escaping from the machine they find a poster of Mrs. Tweedy’s chicken pies and decide to show the other chickens what she is up to.
Rocky becomes a hero
The scene changes how Ginger sees Rocky as a character. Before this she sees him as being arrogant, but after saving her she starts to see him as a hero and takes a shine to him. This is also when Rocky begins to feel like a fraud and starts to feel for the other chickens. This is especially evident after Fowler, who originally looked at Rocky with a disdainful eye, gives him a medal of honour for his rescue of Ginger. After this, Rocky decides to run away, this is a move that upsets the chickens, as they all believed he was the answer to their prayers. Fowler non-intentionally gives them an escape idea of building a crate to fly out of the farm. They work against the clock to build it whilst Mr. Tweedy attempts to repair the machine for his merciless wife. In this quest, they are aided by two sticky-fingered rats known appropriately as Nick and Fetcher, who provide some great comic scenes. As they attempt to fly away, Tweedy tries to thwart the plan but Rocky heroically returns and aids them. By doing this, Rocky has gone from being the anti-hero to the hero. A nail-biting climax follows as a demented and evil Tweedy again tries to cut off the escape plan in psychopathic fashion.
If you are looking for a film that has laughs, sadness and glorious effects then “Chicken Run” is the film I would advice you watch. This film will seriously make you reconsider eating chicken pie ever again.
reading this make me want to turn back into a kid and watch it again
Excellent review! My son was terrified of this when he was little! We watched it recently together and I noticed a wry smile from him now and again! This would certainly interest him!
Loved this film especially as I had enjoyed the Great Escape many decades ago – I rented it again.
Excellent review 🙂 This film is like comfort food- always cheers you up! Your review is very well thought through and brought my attention to parts of the film that I had forgotten about- I will have to watch it again later! Thanks 🙂
Paula Blakemore said:
Really enjoyed this review. Perceptive and interesting- will dig DVD out and watch it again now!
I loved this movie!! Great review Vinnie!
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It’s one of my all time favourites that manages to always put a smile on my face.
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