Forget the PlayStations, Pokémons and Teletubby dolls – what every kid should get this Christmas is a big splodge of Plasticene. Bend it this way, shape it that way, and in no time colourful little figures will be cropping up all over the place. Then all the country’s sprogs’ll need is some Aardman-level ideas and soon the UK will be hatching smart and chirpy summer blockbusters for generations to come.
Chicken Run, Aardman’s first full-length animated feature, finally makes good on the promise of the studio’s award-winning shorts. The inventive humour and strong characters of Creature Comforts and The Wrong Trousers are still present, but Chicken Run is much more than a series of stretched out set pieces. This is – from start to finish – a big screen experience. The movie boasts a well-developed screenplay that draws the audience into the story, while the camera angles and detailed design give it a real cinematic quality. From the opening frame onwards, it’s impossible to treat Aardman’s models as anything other than believable individuals, cheering on their escape attempts and cowering beside them as the Nazi-like Mrs Tweedy stomps about. The talented voice cast – ranging from megastar Mel Gibson to Brit TV stalwarts Julia Sawalha and Jane Horrocks – take the character quirks and build them into personalities both funny and distinctive.
While the story’s general outline lashes a knowing wink towards The Great Escape and other POW movies, there are plenty of more modern references thrown in to add extra levels to the laughs – the best being an extended Indiana Jones routine as Rocky and Ginger duck, cluck, dodge and jump inside a pie-making machine. With more adventure (and a more credible romance) than M:I-2, Chicken Run is a barnyard-sized feather in Aardman’s cap.