Can someone please explain to me what happened to Walt Disney Animation Studios in the early 2000s? It seems they made a slew of bad films during that time, and Chicken Little is no exception. I came into this one knowing nothing about the film, and only vaguely knowing the fairy tale it was based on; “The sky is falling,” and all of that. I didn’t have very high hopes going in, but I decided to keep an open mind on the off-chance that I was wrong and that this was an underrated Disney classic.
As it turns out, no such luck. The film begins with tiny Chicken Little declaring that the sky is falling. He has no proof, and the entire town thinks he’s completely nuts. In an effort to fit in and please his disgruntled father, Chicken Little joins the school baseball team, trains tirelessly, and makes the winning run to win the championship game. If this had all been a brief opening scene to lead into the main plot of the film, it may have been fine. Unfortunately, this whole storyline encompasses half of the film. It isn’t until after Chicken Little wins the game that he finds a piece of the fallen sky, and realizes that the sky is falling for real. He and his friends investigate, only to find out that…it’s aliens. Aliens are apparently trying to take over the Earth, and as the full-scale invasion is taking place, Chicken Little and friends must get to the bottom of it. They soon realize that the aliens are not invading, but are merely looking for their lost child. Chicken Little finds the baby alien, returns him to his family, and all is well.
The plot is far-fetched and oddly paced, with the movie feeling like two completely separate and disjointed stories. The film tries hard to be funny, injecting jokes and physical comedy into the film that largely fall flat. It seems obvious Disney was trying to draw on the appeal of contemporary Dreamworks releases like Shrek, making use of modern songs throughout the film in place of an original score. Unfortunately, this isn’t what I’ve come to expect from Disney, and so found myself longing for the more classic Disney tropes. I don’t know what inspired Disney to go with a retelling of the “Chicken Little” fairy tale. I’m not adverse to the company making the tales more kid-friendly (ever read the original “Little Mermaid”? That would have been a drastically different story had Disney stayed true to the source material), but Chicken Little misses the mark entirely, resulting in a film that is rather bland and boring.
It makes me sad to write so many negative reviews about Disney films, especially all in a row, but it can’t be helped. While Pixar was churning out one classic film after another, Disney was struggling to find its own voice. I take comfort in knowing that soon enough I’ll be back in familiar territory, with more classically styled Disney films that are far more reminiscent of the movies from my childhood. It’s only natural that the studio would falter once or twice during its long run, and while it’s disappointing to admit that, at least there are plenty of other far superior films to enjoy in their vault. I wouldn’t personally count Chicken Little among those, and honestly can’t imagine that many would. At least there are better films awaiting me; I’m eager to move on to those, and get away from these chicken/alien nonsense stories.