Movie: Chicken Run Dawn of the Nugget
Production Companies: Aardman Animations, Netflix Animations
Director: Sam Fell
Producers: Steve Pegram, Leyla Hobart
Scriptwriters: Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell, Rachel Tunnard
Main Cast: Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Bella Ramsey, Imelda Staunton, Lynn Ferguson, David Bradley
Release Date: December 15th 2023
Running Time: 98 minutes
Well that was rather clucking good… Despite taking 23 years for a sequel, Aardman mostly knocked it out of the park with a pretty good film. It captures a good amount of the original charm and humour which made the original such an entertaining watch. And don’t worry Aardman fans, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget will probably still traumatise you and your families when the animation hides the trauma that Aardman animators apparently suffered from chickens. Anyway, I’m going to get the review started before this introduction starts running away from me….
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget follows the original escapee chickens, like Ginger (Newton) and her husband Rocky (Levi), as they settle down to a secluded life on an island after escaping from Mrs Tweedy’s farm. However, when the pair’s daughter, Mollie (Ramsey), ventures across to the mainland and ends up in a chicken nugget factory (aka me after a night out) Ginger, Rocky and the gang have to save Mollie and new found friend, Frizzle. Oh, and there may be a surprise return for the animated film world’s equivalent of the Terminator, given her propensity for avoiding death.
Tone in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
To begin my analysis of Chicken Run 2, I’m going to discuss the film’s tone and if it manages to maintain the same tone from 2 decades ago. Christ, I feel old for some reason… Anyway, Chicken Run 2 mostly stays consistent with the same tone, which is mostly achieved when the world’s most terrifying chicken farmer, Mrs Tweedy, resurfaces to the surprise of no one. Here, the film’s tone feels a lot more consistent, mostly thanks to the nightmare shots of Ginger thinking she’ll be running around like a headless chicken. Anyway, this is arguably the closest Dawn of the Nugget gets to striking the tone of the first one as the first half is a very stereotypically predictable long awaited sequel story.
Basically, the parents are trying to shield their child away from the same world they thought they had escaped from, only for the child to end up in there forcing a daring rescue. So, while the tone is a bit inconsistent, the return to the nightmare inducing tone of the first film really helps the film’s momentum.
Animation in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
Continuing with the theme of comparing the two films, let’s get a bit animated here. A sorry excuse for a segue aside, maybe it’s understandable why the internet were fearing Aardman had run out of clay given some of the designs and models here. Just take the chicken nugget factory which looks like something Edna Mode spends her summer holidays in.
Also, the fact the animation looks just as good as it did in 2000 is a sign that Aardman, clay shortage or not, have still not lost their touch with the chickens showing more emotion than the potential Oscar nominated Joaquin Phoenix in the awkward shag fest that was Napoleon. Also, the animation for Mrs Tweedy’s return is fantastic with her slowly stepping down the stairs, one step at a time. Overall, a very well animated film where once again Aardman put more effort into expressing their character’s emotions than Phoenix did in Napoleon.
Casting Controversies in Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget
And to conclude the review, I feel obliged to touch on the (re) casting controversies of Ginger and Rocky. Now recasting Rocky is fair enough as Mel Gibson has a love affair with burning bridges to Hollywood so you instead cast Zachary Levi whose career, ironically enough, may have just gone up in flames too? But mostly, that casting choice went down fine unlike the dropping of Julia Sawahla as Ginger. Do I think it was ageism? Possibly until you remember Imelda Staunton and David Bradley both feature in the film so clearly the studio had no problem with them.
At the end of the day, it seems trivial but serves as a stark warning that Hollywood are still more than happy to ruffle feathers, even amongst stone cold classic franchises like Chicken Run. But seriously, what kid is going to know or care that Sawahla is 55 years old when they’re just there to see another unwittingly traumatising Aardman film.
To summarise Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, this is a fine enough film which works well as a very long awaited sequel to the 2000 hit film. Whilst most of the attention was focussed on the voiceover booth, the cast do pull off a fun film which will undoubtedly bring up the traumatising memories of Chicken Run all whilst doing a better Mission Impossible film than Dead Reckoning Part One. Now that’s clucking mad to think about…..
Overall Rating: 6.5/10 – Okay
Target Audience: 7+
Content Warning: Mild Frightening and Intense Scenes, Mild Violence and Gore