Toon Talk: Chicken Little DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt
MPAA Rating: PG
At one point in Chicken Little, Disney's first foray into a fully computer-animated feature, Abby Mallard attempts to console the titular tyke regarding an impending "major motion pictureâ€? based on his infamous acorn incident by offering "Maybe it will go straight to video?â€? A wise (yet ugly) duckling that Abby is, for the actual film they're starring in - an unexpected hit last fall, available on DVD today - does seem better suited for the smaller screen.
Stripped of the 3-D gimmick that made watching the standard presentation appear hollow by comparison (click here for my original review), the film's uninspiring visuals and shallow script are not as discomforting on the home screen. Moreover, despite director Mark Dindal's repeated insistences in the disc's bonus features that his Chicken continues the "legacy of fine Disney feature animationâ€?, there is Little evidence that that is the case in this often crude, never joyous concoction. Therefore, it is not surprising that it fits quite well on the shelf next to such direct-to-video fare as The Return of Jafar and The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.
While re-watching the film, I was struck with how lazy the filmmakers were; there is not much in original ideas here - unlike the problematic sky that features so prominently in the story, it is sadly apparent that it is, indeed, the standards that have fallen. Grafting a typical father-son conflict onto the spartan tale now seems forced, and every gag is punctuated by a virtual elbow to the ribcage to make sure you "got itâ€? (for example: it isn't enough that the climactic alien invasion look like something out of a Spielberg flick, but one character has to exclaim "It looks like The War of the Worlds out there!â€?). In addition, attempts to make Chicken Little appear sympathetic only make him pathetic, as in the constant inferences that "oh, he's just insaneâ€?, a rather brutal assessment for a simple cartoon character.