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CHICKEN RUN (2000)
On a 1950's Yorkshire Tweedy Egg Chicken farm, run by the evil Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy, Ginger the chicken tries in vain to come up with an escape plan for the chickens before they all become chicken meat when they eventually stop laying eggs. Luckily, a flying rooster, Rocky, lands in their compound and a plan or two is hatched to help the chickens to fly out of their confinement, which faces lots of obsticles.
Voice talent include: Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, Mel Gibson, Tony Haygarth, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson, Julia Sawalha, Timothy Spall, Imelda Staunton, and Benjamin Whitrow.
Directed by Peter Lord and Nick Park. Screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick.
Promotional Lines: "Escape or Die Frying."
"There's Nothing More Determined Than Poultry With A Plan."
"A Few Good Hen" --- "It's Chicken Impossible."
Quotes from Ginger:
"So, laying eggs all your life and then getting stuffed and roasted, that's good enough for you, is it?"
"It's a Living."
Peter Lord's and Nick Park's Chicken Run is a classic clever, family adventure comedy that has something for everyone, that grabs your attention and builds in suspense, ending in a most satisfying ending, which is all tied together by humor and truths about the importance of teamwork, friendship and determination.
The story begins in an oppressive prison-like chicken yard at Mrs. Tweedy's Egg farm in Yorkshire, England. Chicken huts and their yard is surrounded by high fences, lights, reminding one of the P.O.W. movies such as Stalag 17. The audience watches a chicken, called Ginger dodging the flashlight of Mr. Tweedy, as she sneaks across the yard to the fence. With a spoon, she stealthily digs a hole under the fence and escapes to the other side. However, when other chickens try to escape too, one gets stuck, and they all get caught. Ginger is thrown into the coal box for the night as punishment. We then see a variety of escape plans planned by Ginger which always are foiled by one of the other chickens.
At the end of the week, a bell rings one morning, and all the chickens nervously line up, under the direction of Fowler, a Rooster who was decorated in WW2 as a RAF mascot. The gate clangs open and the camera focuses on a pair a black yard boots, and we meet the evil Mrs. Tweedy, who is reviewing her records of the laying results of each hen on her clipboard, as she slowly moves down the inspection line. One hen, Edwina, who hasn't laid an egg all week, is snatched up by Mr. Tweedy, taken from the yard and never seen again. It is sinisterly implied that she lost her head and became the Tweedy's dinner.
There situation brightens when an American flying rooster, Rocky Rhodes (Mel Gibson), who escapes the circus, crash lands in their yard. While the hens are overjoyed, Fowler, an old rooster who had served in the RAF during the war as the mascot of a bomber unit, considers this Yank an untrustworthy, unwelcomed guest. "Pushy Americans, always showing up late for every war. Overpaid, oversexed, and over here!"
Ginger immediately tries to get Rocky Rhodes to help the chickens learn to fly over the fence so they can escape. It becomes apparent that Fowler may be right about Rocky's character. However, when men arrive from the circus, and offer a reward for the return of Rocky, Ginger has Rocky over a barrel. She only hid him after he promises to help them.
So with the help with the help of two scavenger rats, Fetcher (Phil Daniels) and Nick (Timothy Spall), the chickens, under Rocky's direction undergo a training program to learn to fly, complete with exercise and various contraptions, designed by a Scottish hen, Mac, to try to get over the fence with, after learning to flap their wings doesn't work too well.
Meanwhile, the dastardly Mrs. Tweedy sees an advertisement for a chicken pie machine, and she decides to try to make big money making chicken pies! Uh oh! After Mr. Tweedy assembles the machine in the barn, he grabs Ginger to try out the chicken pie process. Rocky Rhodes flies into the machine to try to rescue Ginger from certain death. After several close shaves with death, they not only escape using their quick thinking, but also manage to disable the machine, which will buy them more time.
After honored as a hero by Fowler, who even gives Rocky his RAF medal, Rocky leaves, not able to handle the praise or the fact that he loves Ginger. The next day, despite her disappointment in Rocky, Ginger gets the idea of building a mechanical flying plane, that runs on chicken foot power. Mac draws up the engineering plans, and with the help of Fowler and the rats, the whole chicken population works feverishly, hoping to finish their flying escape bird- plane before the Tweedys can get their chicken pie machine fixed. To add to the suspense, Mr. Tweedy nearly catches them several times.
In Nick Park's films,"there is always some sort of machine that plays a major part in the film's climax." The last 20 minutes treats the audience to some great suspenseful escape adventure, that brings out the very best of all the chickens, rats and roosters, both Fowler and Rocky, who comes back at the last moment to help. The most intense moments revolve around the final showdown between the evil Mrs. Tweedy and Ginger in a rather dangerous environment.
This most entertaining story was created / directed by the United Kingdom's honored director / writer, Nick Park and the talented director/producer Peter Lord. Nick Park made a name for himself and was honored for his highly entertaining series of films starring animated characters, WALLACE AND GROMIT, in a variety of adventures. Parks and Lord have worked together to make WALLACE AND GROMIT: THE GREAT VEGETABLE PLOT which is due to come out in 2004.
The clever, humorous, suspenseful screenplay, based on Park's and Lord's story, was written by Karey Kirkpatrick, who does very well in the humorous pun department, and has written a very witty, humorous, well-done script that does great justice to Lord's and Park's story.
The actors and actresses hired to be the voices behind the various characters all did a great job. With the exception of Mel Gibson, all the others are UK -based actors and actresses, active in British films and TV.
British TV actress, Julia Sawalha, does a superb job voicing the character of the smart, brave hen, Ginger, determined to find some way to escape oppressive conditions and the fear of death, with her fellow chickens, to live in freedom in an area full of grass, food and water, far away from the Tweedys.
Mel Gibson also does an excellent job in providing the voice for Rocky Rhodes who has some character weaknesses that he manages to get past to do the right thing in the end.
Lynn Ferguson offers a Scottish-accented voice for Ginger's right hand engineering designer, Mac, who designs the escape bird-plane with Fowler's help.
Miranda Richardson does a delightfully evil voice for the nasty Mrs. Tweedy, the villainous chicken egg farm owner.
Benjamin Whitrow, a veteran British TV and film actor, catches the spirit of Fowler, a proud RAF veteran of WW2.
Tony Haygarth does a convincing voice for the hen-pecked Mr.Tweedy, husband of Mrs. Tweedy, who thinks he is seeing things when he catches glimpses of what the chickens are up to at varying stages of their escape plans.
Phil Daniels (Fetcher) and Timothy Spall (Nick) play the wise-cracking rats who do scavenging for payments in eggs. They play off each other's lines very well, delivering the comical punch intended by the script.
CHICKEN RUN is rated G, and is truly a great family film that everyone will enjoy. It offers the perfect mix of humor, story, suspense and adventure, with an underlying message that isn't beaten over your head. Very young children may be a little scared of Mrs. Tweedy, but she does get her just deserts in the end, which should make everyone laugh. She doesn't die, but she looks awfully funny.
If you enjoyed CHICKEN RUN, you may like Park's WALLACE AND GROMIT A GRAND DAY OUT, CREATURE COMFORTS, A BUG'S LIFE, TOY STORY 2, BABE, STALAG 17, and THE GREAT ESCAPE.