Disney’s ‘Chicken Little’ falls short of expectations | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Disney’s ‘Chicken Little’ falls short of expectations

Howie Nave

A pint-sized hero, Chicken Little, has caused big-time havoc when he mistakes a falling acorn for a piece of the sky in "Chicken Little."

There’s a lot riding on the release of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Chicken Little.” This marks the first animated feature since Disney and Pixar parted company. Pixar has been doing very well on its own, and Disney, once known for the two-dimensional look of its most recent animated hits, is now relying on the 3-D approach.

Can the chicken deliver? Well, partly. After what Pixar gave us in a stunning reality that transformed the animated market, we are now back at the good old (and over-used) CGI format that wears thin for its overstuffed characters.

“Chicken Little” is based on the popular fables “Henny Penny” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Our title character is voiced by Zach Braff (“Garden State”) who cries out that “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” when something hits him. OK, it’s an acorn, but Chicken Little thinks the world is coming to an end. When you say something enough times but nothing pans out, others tend to ignore you after a while.

With that in mind, Chicken Little has a reputation that needs some severe mending. Even Chicken Little’s introverted single dad (voiced by Garry Marshall) wishes his son would just shut up already and go away.

However, when the sky really does fall, and aliens are not far behind, what’s a chicken to do? Needless to say, the task of saving the world falls on the shoulders of our Chicken Little and his loyal cadre of friends.

Director Mark Dindal (“The Emperor’s New Groove”) has brought in his team of writers, who worked on the so-so “Brother Bear” animated picture, to make this one work. The kids are probably going to like parts of this movie, especially Chicken Little’s geeky friends. Even the enemies are family-friendly, so parents can safely bring the entire family and not worry about the fear of a nightmare from their kids. Among those lending their voices to this movie are Joan Cusack as the Ugly Duckling, Steve Zahn as Runt, Don Knotts as Mayor Turkey Lurkey, Mark Walton as Goosey Loosey and Amy Sedaris as Foxy Loxy. Some of my favorites in the voice department include Wallace Shawn, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard and Catherine O’Hara.

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I found myself scratching my head at some of these characters, and wondered where they fell on the gender chart. Is that reading too much into this? I mean, it’s just an animated feature, so why would it matter? Just tossing it out there, but when Steve Zahn’s character has a passion for disco coupled with a rather extensive Barbra Streisand catalogue … well, it’s pretty obvious what the animators were hinting at. Then again, I thought Jessica Rabbit was pretty sexy, and not just because she was drawn that way. Sorry, Roger.

Some of the gags in “Chicken Little” were cute, but after a half hour they were becoming nauseating. Some highlights involved other movie references that the parents will enjoy and maybe even hold their interest throughout the 77 minutes that this movie clocks in at. Trust me, this was a very long 77 minutes, too. This could have been an entertaining cartoon short, but instead dragged on like a bad “Saturday Night Live” sketch. This was like watching a cartoon short that insisted on going over an hour, when in fact should have remained just that – a short. Compared to the likes of a “Lion King” or a “Beauty and the Beast,” “Chicken Little” falls short. Actually, I would place this movie somewhere between the director’s “The Emperor’s New Groove” and “Brother Bear.” If you liked those, you will probably be satisfied with this outing.

The pop songs in the movie serve as nothing more than a reminder of what it is you are watching. The storytellers probably felt that the plot needed some reinforcement, since the visuals weren’t cutting it. The new songs are not very memorable, while the old ones have been played in so many other movies it’s almost nauseating to hear them here in this context. Still, I realize that it’s virtually impossible to see a movie that caters to the whole family, so maybe that’s all it needs to make it No. 1 this weekend. When the competition is non-existent, I’m sure it’ll be well received.

– Howie Nave is host/manager of The Improv comedy cub inside Harveys and reviews films for seven radio stations throughout northern California and Nevada. He co-hosts the morning show on Tahoe’s KRLT radio and you can see his film reviews every Friday morning on KOLO ABC TV Channel 8 and weekends on KMTN television here in South Lake Tahoe.