Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, 2023.
Directed by Sam Fell.
Featuring the voice talents of Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Bella Ramsey, Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton, Lynn Ferguson, Josie Sedgwick-Davies, David Bradley, Romesh Ranganathan, Daniel Mays, Nick Mohammed, Wyatt Shears, Peter Serafinowicz, and Miranda Richardson.
Having pulled off an escape from Tweedy’s farm, Ginger has found a peaceful island sanctuary for the whole flock. But back on the mainland the whole of chicken-kind faces a new threat, and Ginger and her team decide to break in.
In the passably entertaining and amusing 20+ years later sequel titled Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (with new voice cast members replacing names for some good reasons and others questionably so), the human-devised danger isn’t scary or a prison this time around, but rather a candy-colored paradise where chickens are free to roam around and do what they want.
This is mistaken as freedom by the daughter of chickens Rocky and Ginger (voiced by Zachary Levi and Thandiwe Newton), Molly (voiced by Bella Ramsey, hot off of leading HBO’s critically acclaimed adaptation of the video game The Last of Us). She tires of her parents insisting that she stay cooped up on their safe island without ever being allowed to travel beyond the waters, eventually becoming a fish-out-of-water or chicken-off-island, getting a bit too adventurous with her newfound friend Frizzle (voiced by Josie Sedgwick-Davies) and ending up inside a facility running on “advanced poultry technology” that appears to be a clucking utopia, when in reality the chickens are collared and brainwashed into letting go of all fear to ensure that when they are sent onto the conveyor belt to get grinded up into chicken nuggets, they come out as tasting delicious as possible.
This plot concept alone seems ripe for a commentary on how, even in the real world, people find themselves brainwashed and cutting themselves off at the knees under the impression that they are free or doing what’s best for themselves, but that’s also not what director Sam Fell (working alongside screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell, and Rachel Tunnard) are interested in exploring. Putting the reverse spin on the original animated feature is good enough for them.
That’s also acceptable, considering that the breaking-in rescue mission by the parents (bringing along other fan-favorite characters such as the rodents, who are now uncles and humorously dimwitted as ever) not only maintains engagement through its clever imagination when it comes to the facility security and the reconnaissance that goes into sneaking in but also contains some reasonably exciting action sequences. All of this is accentuated by a score from Harry Gregson Williams (while he is most known for films, it’s also hard not to chuckle and nod your head that the composer of the Metal Gear Solid games is perfect for these movies.)
While Aardman Animation is supposedly running out of the clay that they create these visually distinct and detailed worlds with, what’s here, for now, is a dazzling reminder that, even if the story takes the logical next step yet ultimately feels like a retread (including bringing back the villain from the first film alongside a new one), there are typically at the top of their game on that front. It’s the lessons that feel a little too bland and fall into family-animated feature routine fare of embracing all aspects of oneself and becoming less of a helicopter parent, all presented without much emotional weight.
However, the sleuthing and perilous encounters staging is smart and crafty, putting some live-action Hollywood blockbusters to shame. It is impressive how long these filmmakers can keep one of those sequences going without redundancy kicking in. It isn’t the dawn of something revolutionary, but Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget breezes by with solid laughs, action, and superbly crafted claymation.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com