Pluck Off

That's not the sky falling, just Disney's Chicken Little.

Chicken Little
3-D, maybe. 2-D, nah.
3-D, maybe. 2-D, nah.
Chicken Little is a groundbreaking movie in more ways than one. Not only is it Disney's first in-house all-computer-generated feature, but on select screens, it will be presented in "Disney Digital 3-D," a brand-new system created with the help of George Lucas' special-effects company Industrial Light & Magic. It's revolutionary! It's state-of-the-art! It's . . . not being screened in this format prior to opening day. Oops. In promoting its new product, Disney was a little chicken.

Watching the movie in 2-D, when it was clearly conceived with an extra dimension in mind, is like watching a porno with all the naked parts trimmed out -- you can tell when something exciting is supposed to happen, but have to imagine what you thought you were going to see. Chicken Little constantly features objects rolling, falling, or swinging toward the camera; it maintains a relatively minimal composition in the background, to help you focus on the stuff that's moving. Compared to recent animated fare like Wallace & Gromit or Finding Nemo, which packed the frame with minor details and gags, Chicken Little looks downright primitive. You might not notice, with stuff flying out at you; otherwise, yep, you will.

It begins with the classic tale of paranoia. The eponymous excitable fowl (Zach Braff, a poor man's Michael J. Fox) freaks out, yelling that the sky is falling, causing mass panic from the likes of fellow townscritters Foxy Loxy (Amy Sedaris), Goosey Loosey (Mark Walton), and Turkey Lurkey (Don Knotts). Turns out it was just an acorn that hit Chicken Little on the head. Or was it? The movie suggests something more and imagines that Chicken Little was unfairly maligned because his father, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall), wouldn't back him up. The fallen piece of "sky" is actually part of an alien cloaking device, and a full-scale invasion isn't far behind. But who will believe the one person who unnecessarily alarmed everyone before?

To save the day, there's only Chicken Little and his small group of misfit friends, including Abby "Ugly Duckling" Mallard (Joan Cusack); a huge, ironically named pig called Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn); and Fish Out of Water (Dan Molina), who wears a diving helmet full of H2O and speaks in unintelligible burbles and sign language. In a cast full of stellar voice talents -- Patrick Stewart, Wallace Shawn, Harry Shearer, Fred Willard, Catherine O'Hara, Patrick Warburton, and Adam West also chime in -- it's the barely verbal Fish who steals what little show there is in 2-D.

The jokes here are way less rapid-fire than we've come to expect from Pixar, and the now de rigueur references to other movies are rubbed in twice in almost every instance, just to make sure you get them.

If Chicken Little were in 3-D, shown in a Disney theme park, as you sit in motion simulators with mist spraying on you, the lame and obvious gags wouldn't be too much of a problem; nor would the fact that the animation isn't much better than that of the similarly plotted, way more fun Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. If Disney Digital 3-D is as impressive as they say, it may still be worth checking out. But frankly, I can't bear to sit through this again to find out.

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