Featuring the voices of Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, and Garry Marshall. Rated general. For showtimes, please see page 90
The fable about an acorn hitting a chicken on the head may seem a little slight for an animated feature. Apparently, that's the view of Chicken Little's creators, anyway. They've tried to dress it up with everything from a big baseball match to a sky that literally falls, thanks to an alien invasion. Their computer-generated animal kingdom is packed with "contemporary" pop-culture references: karaoke video machines, advice magazines, and cellphones. (The kids these days are crazy about 'em!) And proving that director Mark Dindal's team is a tad out of touch, the teens here sing an endless back catalogue of '70s disco hits and rock anthems.
Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff doing his best Woody Allen impression) is already an outcast when he throws the town into a tizzy by claiming a piece of the sky has just conked him on the cranium. The bespectacled pipsqueak's only friends are the school nerds-obese pig Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn) and Abby "Ugly Duckling" Mallard (Joan Cusack)-and he does nothing but embarrass his retired-jock widower dad (Garry Marshall). Seemingly unable to decide on one decent resolution, the film's four writers opt for two: first, Chicken has to play pinch hitter in the school's baseball final; secondly, he helps the town ward off a space invasion.
Disney's first solo foray into digital animation doesn't have the depth, visually or narratively, to satisfy the tastes of audiences spoiled by the likes of Shrek, The Incredibles, or Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The characters-the mayor is Turkey Lurkey, the coach is Morkubine Porcupine-and the jokes are too lame to appeal to older kids, let alone their parents. Yet the darker, War of the Worlds-like invasion is too intense for most younger children. One nighttime scene of an alien with a giant, Skilsaw-like propeller threatening to turn Chicken Little into chicken fricassee prompted one toddler sitting near me to screech a bloodcurdling "DA-A-A-A-DDY!"
Like its geeky title character, Chicken Little tries to please everyone but ends up trying way too hard.