‘Chicken Little’

By Genevieve Diesing

The classic fable of “Chicken Little” is about a character who declares the sky is falling.

In the story, the public gets all worked up upon this announcement and when they see no falling sky, they become resentful. Ironically, by adapting this story into a film, jamming it with a celebrity cast and flouting it as the funniest, most sophisticatedly animated children’s movie in years, Disney has unintentionally mimicked the tale’s cautionary theme and made an enormous deal out of nothing special.

In the veritable Muppet town where the story takes place, Chicken Little (Zach Braff) is a puffy, pint-sized, adolescent bird who alerts everybody when a chunk of sky falls on his head. Unable to prove this phenomena really occurred, his community disgraces him and his only friends become the outcast clichés Abby Mallard “Ugly Duckling” (Joan Cusack), Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn) and Fish out of Water (Dan Molina). Little yearns to regain his social graces and, most of all, to please his dad again.

Thus, the inevitable sap-infused Disney spin materializes as Little’s wavering bond with his father, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall). Because Little’s father doesn’t believe Little’s “sky is falling” bit any more than the rest of the town, Little doesn’t get the trust and support he needs from his dad and spends half the movie trying to gain “closure” with his father. Although it’s as humorous to watch an animated chicken discuss the modern and somewhat colloquial term “closure” as it is unrealistic to imagine children grasping its concept, the relationship Little has with his father is the only compelling part of the formulaic and predictable plot.

While the animation is lively and the voices are fun, the rest of “Chicken Little” is one big yawn. It’s as if Disney just gave up on making interesting and original stories and figured big names, heavy promo and gaudily poppy soundtracks could be enough.

What Disney has done with “Chicken Little” is just another symptom of the trend in big-budget filmmaking these days: They’ve ignored artistic quality for financial quantity. There should be something innocent about a children’s film, something that encompasses a learning experience, captures actual creativity and revels in the imagination kids have so naturally. Instead, “Chicken Little” and its kin focus more on chasing the new wave of dumbed down, censored profit vehicles masquerading as children’s stories, attempting to impress rather than move, glamorize and rapidly entertain rather than offer thoughtfulness.

Let’s just hope “Chicken Little”’s audience is smart enough to not let Disney get it all worked up about nothing.