Saturday, November 17, 2012

D52 - Week 46 - Chicken Little

Chicken Medium (Kevin)

Men, as a general rule, do not talk about their feelings much with their sons. This we can now see applies to roosters as well. It's the basic message of Chicken Little: there's tension between a son and father that could easily be resolved if they just take the first step to actually talk about it. Now this movie isn't beneath making fun of itself. It ends with Buck Cluck winkingly chipping away at the fourth wall by talking about a Hollywood movie - that would end up over-the-top and silly - staying true to the original story. But I have to wonder if this movie also realizes it undermines its own message of dealing with a problem head-on instead of avoiding it or getting distracted. Chicken Little, the movie, does that quite a lot. Just as you think it's going to use its time to develop the characters and build on the story, one of the many gag characters does a gag, or two or three. There are even some scenes where more than one joke is competing for screen time at the same time in the same frame. It's very gag-heavy, is what I'm saying. And there's nothing wrong with a stream of gags itself, but if you're going to be that gaggy, movie, you can't also spend little time with the characters' emotions and play up those moments as if we're supposed to genuinely get choked up or something. One or the other! You can be a Lilo & Stitch with sentimentality and not push the comedy too hard or you can be an Airplane! and go crazy with comedy because you don't expect the viewer to get invested in the story. I might let you try to do both if you were a long-running television series that adds character depth gradually over a long period of time, but for a movie, no.

This being the very first entirely-computer-animated (uh, that Indiana Jones clip doesn't count) non-Pixar Disney film, I've gotta talk about the animation. I don't think it holds up quite as well now as The Incredibles does, sorry to say. Frankly it gives me "Jakers" vibes. Not that it looks as bad as Jakers, but that it has that look that gives you the impression that it is meant for children. Though I don't imagine many kids would appreciate an admittedly amusing Gloria Gaynor reference. Or maybe it's "Jimmy Neutron" vibes too. In that it probably would've looked better if it had been done in 2D hand-drawn in the first place.

 The music, aside from the score, is mostly covers or original recordings or already well-known songs. Its original song, "One Little Slip," as performed by Barenaked Ladies, sounds like an obligatory "celebrity cover of the single from the movie," except it actually is in the movie as performed by them, which is weird. I don't know how else to explain what I'm saying there, so I hope it made sense. Also, it's normal now to hear a clip from a song like "It's the End of the World as We Know It" played for the trailer despite not actually being in the movie itself, but here it really is in the movie, and that's weird. That moment feels like the movie turned into its own trailer, or something.

One of the fascinated things about the movie is that in one scene we see the animals of this animal town watching a very live-action Raiders of the Lost Ark starring famous human Harrison Ford. I'm sure the weirdness of that is intentional. Do you suppose humans exist in the same universe but just not in that town? Or maybe this is an alternate universe where their Raiders of the Lost Ark is really just staged by animals with ultra-realistic (to us) sets props and people costumes. Also, other celebrities are referenced, some directly. Are they humans too, or are there also animal versions of our same celebrities? I like Amanda's answer to my question of what animal Barbara Streisand would be: obviously, a sheep. And we collaborated to decide that in Chicken Little's world, "We Are the Champions" was written and performed by QueenBee, the main singer being Freddie Workerbee.

Favorite character: Abby Mallard strikes me as the most down-to-Earth (pun intended? not really) character, and surprisingly hinged for one voiced by Joan Cusack.
Least necessary character: As camera-pandering as Fish Out of Water is, at least he's relevant to the story. Morkupine Porcupine doesn't mug as often, but he also has no purpose aside from forced laughs.
Trivial wondering: Oakey Oaks has the money and technology for modern-day automobiles and movie theaters and television and film crews, but sticks to hiring a chameleon for traffic light duty. This gets more perplexing when we see a standard light-operated walk/don't walk sign a little later on. Maybe...that first traffic light was broken and Chameleon Lameleon was just filling in temporarily? But wait. Does he get a funny name like that? He was awfully un-anthropomorphic, wasn't he? Is he not allowed clothes? Two legs good, four legs bad?? Speaking of clothes, feathers and fur aren't enough to cover your nudity, but if you're a wooly sheep your natural covering is good enough.
Even more trivial wondering: How would you shorten Chicken Little's name? Chi Li? Chick Lit?
Overall: I'm going to go ahead and assume that if Walt Disney were alive to see Chicken Little, he would be fascinated by this new and amazing audio-animaputer technology but wouldn't be all that happy with the results of how it's used here.

At least there's a great big beautiful next week, right?

Amanda Hu-MAN....Duh.

I'd be lying if I said I hated Chicken Little.  It just didn't do enough to elicit much of a response in the first place.  It's no wonder CL fell of the radar as quickly as it did.

At a time in animation when any studio aside from PIXAR hadn't the computing power to make a visually impressive film and when in the box office it was competing against such huge names as Harry Potter 4, Chronicles of Narnia, Brokeback Mountain, and Star Wars III, Chicken Little seemed to be little more than a caretaker film for the Studios.

The story was nothing at all like the inspiration piece and yet as much as it had changed, it wasn't particularly inspired anyway.  Corny gags overshadowed character development leaving a cast that was little more than a list of cliches. Plot points and even most of the gags in this new version of the story were predictable to the point that I found myself groaning before they happened.

Did you ever watch a movie and recognize trailer lines and find them to be slightly misaligned with the rest of the theme or atmosphere of the scene or perhaps the whole movie?  Chicken Little felt a bit like pasting together 20 or 30 trailers.  None of them really fit together that well, all of them were over-the-top and hard to relate to, and the score was brash and overshadowing with hard starts and stops that take you out of what little story there was to begin with.

Favorite Character: Abby Mallard.  While she is a visual cliche, she had the most character depth... even if it did dissipate after a forced-romantic semi-climactic moment. Honorable Mention: Adam West.  At least Mr. West sticks with what he does best.
Least favorite character:  Foxy Loxy.  We get it. Chicken Little is an easy target for bullies.  You need to calm down. Geez.
Overall: I was unaffected and I will have forgotten 90% of the plot points by the time we watch the next film.  If you choose to watch it, I bet you'll forget about it pretty quickly too.

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