So, has Disney laid a golden egg with its first non-Pixar digi-toon? Or is Chicken Little actually a bit of a turkey? No, on both counts. Based on the classic boy-who-clucked-wolf fable, this is a MOR effort that belongs in the same comfortable bracket as Madagascar or Robots. Like those films, it scrambles to plug the holes marked 'well-developed story' and 'emotional punch' with visual gaggery, verbal schtick and more movie references than the latest edition of Halliwell's. And it pulls through... just.
Things look dicey to begin with, though. First there's the tone, which veers erratically from snarky (opening digs at The Lion King and Shrek) to syrupy (woe-is-me balladry in the worst Disney tradition). Second, there's the source material: even Uncle Walt might have baulked at the idea of cooking a feature-length feast out of such a skinny bird.
Happily, the animators come up with a workable solution; namely, feather-bedding their own plot with those from other films. Thus, we swing past a so-so Bad News Bears sequence before zapping straight into War Of The Worlds territory, as the sky above Oakey Oak starts falling in the shape of alien invaders. But the key character arc is fished straight out of Finding Nemo: can our diminutive hero resolve his trust issues with his widowed pop (Garry Marshall)?
Frankly, you won't care much once the film starts hurtling about like a headless you-know-what, at its best evoking the screwball snap of director Mark Dindal's The Emperor's New Groove (arguably the last great 2-D-er from the Mouse House). Which isn't to say that the cast are colourless - check out Steve Zahn's hyperventilating hog or Harry Shearer's canine commentator - but, like a lot of what's on offer, they feel a bit half-hatched.
Still, it's a funny, funky fairytale that's cutesy enough for kids without being painful for parents. Disney have certainly been a little chicken in terms of taking risks, but at least... (drumroll, please) they haven't ended up with egg on their faces.
Driven by energy rather than ideas, Disney's first 3-D-er isn't a patch on Pixar. But if a lot feels second-hand, it's in pretty good nick.
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