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DVD: 'Chicken Little'
By M.V. Moorhead

April 1, 2006

For Easter this year, you may want to enjoy one of the few movies in which the hero is a chick—a chick, that is, in the literal sense: a little chicken. The movie is Disney’s computer-animated comedy Chicken Little, fresh out on DVD.

Full disclosure: I know one of the of the co-writers of Chicken Little—Steve Bencich, a very cool guy who co-wrote and co-directed a low-budget movie I acted in some years ago, long before Disney had ever heard of him. So I would be likely to say that Chicken Little was hilarious and charming even if it wasn’t. Therefore, you’re just going to have to take my word for it when I tell you that Chicken Little is hilarious and charming.

It retells the ancient fable in a modern suburban setting, and with an ingenious 21st-Century twist: This time, the sky really is falling, sort of.

The diminutive C. L., voiced by Zach Braff of TV’s Scrubs, humiliated himself and became the town joke the previous year when he raised a panic by claiming that he had been hit on the head with a piece of the firmament. A year later, he’s still trying to live the incident down.

A sports triumph gets him back on an even keel, both at school and with his embarrassed, insufficiently supportive father (voiced by Garry Marshall).

But just that quickly, he learns that what he had previously thought was a piece of the sky was actually a piece of an alien spacecraft, that the aliens are back, and that they have designs on Earth. Understandably, he has no desire to play Paul Revere in this crisis, and he’s pretty sure that no one, his father included, would believe him anyway.

All sorts of zany slapstick ensues, at such a fever pitch and with so much wacky invention that it easily overrides the potentially tiresome Disney formula stuff—the victory of the underdog, winning the approval of the father, and so on.

The character designs are endearing, especially C. L. himself, with his tiny body, enormous round head and unwieldy glasses, and his pompadour-like junior coxcomb.

Joan Cusack and Steve Zahn give fine voice to C. L.’s pals, an “ugly duckling” named Abby Mallard and a pig inaccurately named Runt.

Also in the first-rate voice cast are the likes of Patrick Stewart, Fred Willard, Wallace Shawn, Catherine O’Hara, Adam West, Patrick Warburton and, in one of his last movie roles, the great Don Knotts, who provides the fretful voice for Turkey Lurkey—a turkey-song rather than a swansong.

The DVD—As usual, the disc is stuffed with ads for other Disney flicks, but once you’ve hacked through these, many of the extras are pretty cute. There are light documentaries, games, music videos—including one for the delightful Barenaked Ladies song “One Little Slip”—and some clever deleted scenes, including two alternative openings.

In one, Knotts tells the traditional story, to amusing 2-D visuals. The other, from an earlier, discarded conception of the film, casts the title role as a girl—a chick, in every sense of the word.

As to family suitability, Chicken Little has a few very slightly off-color jokes, and some of the alien scenes might possibly scare some of the littlest viewers.

But in all but the most uptight homes, this would be excellent family entertainment.
































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