Disney'sfirst homegrown computer-animated film is one of the more painful moviegoingexperiences in years, a contrived bit of barnyard pat dubbed Chicken Little.
Despite itssleek spaceships and cute animal antics - all lovingly rendered digitally forsure - Chicken Little slips smoothly and swiftly into the role of anattention-hungry and awkward younger sibling who's desperate to emulate apopular older brother.
UnlikePixar's The Incredibles or Finding Nemo, which are visuallybreathtaking masterpieces, Chicken Little is an uneven picturewith cliches-a-plenty and family story executed more successfully in other,proven titles.
The filmpits its inventive, bespectacled title character Chicken Little (Zach Braff)against the alien forces apparently threatening his lovely farmish community.One simple misunderstanding about the sky falling - in which he spreads massparanoia while swinging comically from a school bell like a miniature Quasimodo- seems enough to label our plucky hero a pariah. He apparently even warrantsa "Crazy Little Chicken" movie.
Unable tolive down the embarrassment, and faced with a mortified - and widowed - father(Gary Marshall), Chicken Little decides to prove himself in something that, atfirst glance, may not seem like a natural fit: baseball. Just when the chickthinks he might be able to put the whole incident behind him, another piece ofsky knocks him out cold.
Directed byMark Dindal from a script credited to Robert L. Baird, Steve Bencich, Ron J.Friedman, and Dan Gerson, Chicken Little fails to do more than presenta pretty picture show with out much substance. The feathers were a little toofeathery, the angles a little too angled, especially when juxtaposed againstother surfaces which obviously hadn't received as much attention.
EvenChicken Little's faithful entourage - a chunky pig named Runt of the Litter(Steve Zahn) and the ducky Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack) - fall flat after anunrelenting succession of single-punchline jokes and non-sequiturs, with sophomoricbelching jokes thrown in for good measure. The story's most expressivecharacter happens to be mute, a helmet-crowned goldfish called Fish Out ofWater with a penchant for theatrics.
It'spossibly that we've been spoiled by the sophistication of solid storytelling ofother contemporary animation tales, but the less-than-subtle transparency of ChickenLittle's father-son conflict hits hernia-inducing heights.
Disneymayhave made a mistake shutting down its traditional 2D animation studio, butsevering its ties with Pixar has only landed it with egg on its face.
(Chicken Little opens November 4. Running time: 81minutes, Rated G).