It's been over 20 years but our favorite claymation chickens are back in Chicken Run Dawn of the Nugget, a plucky, clever, and fun heist movie that is sure to entertain the whole family.
Chicken Run Dawn of the Nugget Review
Picking up a short time after the original film, Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (Zachary Levi) are enjoying life on their idyllic little island. The pair are now parents to Molly (Bella Ramsey), an adventurous young chick who after hearing about her parents' epic escape from the farm yearns for life outside of the safety of the island. Molly makes a break for it, leaving behind the only work she has ever known. Soon she meets a wandering chicken named Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies), but before too much fun can be had the two are chicken-napped and taken to the Fun-Land Farm. Instead of breaking out, Ginger and Rocky must break-in to save their daughter and the other chickens before it's too late.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is a clever and fun heist-style film that delivers a sweet message to children about growing up and encouragement to parents who are navigating watching their kids grow and become more independent. Where the first film was a spoof on The Great Escape, Dawn of the Nugget draws inspiration from the likes of Ocean's 11, Mission Impossible, and James Bond. It's been 23 years (yes that is as painful for me to write as it is for you to read) since Aardman Animation wowed us all with their brilliant claymation and plucky story about chickens busting out of the prison of farmlife. The long-awaited sequel might not reach the heights of the original but it delivers signature Aardman humor and their delightfully realized worlds for an entertaining good time.
2000 was not just yesterday despite how we feel, so in case you needed a reminder or for kids who haven't seen the original, Rocky does an excellent job of recapping Chicken Run to Molly. This serves a dual purpose– to help jog the audience's memory and to act as the catalyst for pushing Molly to leave the island. Smart move by screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell, and Rachel Tunnard. They also work in all the parody and cheeky wit we expect with an Aardman production. So while the stories of growing up and parenting are well-traveled, it becomes infinitely more hilarious and surprising when told by clay chickens.
Part of the charm is the voice cast. The lead fowl, Rocky and Ginger, have been recast. The former for obvious reasons (ahem Mel Gibson) and the latter for sound reasons. Levi does well as Rocky, bringing his signature aloof one minute, high-strung the next energy to Rocky. Newton balances being motherly and warmhearted with the fierceness required for a chicken who escaped a prison camp. Ramsey is a scene-stealer as her infectious joy punctuates everything Molly does on screen. She is just as fearless in her voice acting for a chicken as she was fighting giants in Game of Thrones. Ramsey has determination and grit for days.
Arch-villain Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) is back and just as wicked as ever. Richardson relishes in Tweedy's evilness while pushing around her pawn, the proprietor of Fun-Land Farm, Dr Fry (Nick Mohammed). Mohammed is not playing an awkwardly sweet Nate the great, but an ambitious if daff business man who realizes chicken nuggets means massive profit for himself. Both the villains are entertaining, with their comically long staircase into their 60s-style Bond villain lair. And Aardamn with their flair for scenery have furnished this lair with electric fences, laser-guided exploding ducks, guards, and all the gadgetry one could possibly need to harm some chickens.
Aardman never ceases to blow our minds when it comes to the visuals and beautifully detailed worlds they create for their characters. Sure they added in some CGI to help make the scope of certain shots seem more expansive but the heart remains the same. The expert way they craft the Plasticine to the zany and adorable props in each scene all serve as reminders that this is a handmade creation, lovingly put together. Like when Babs (Jane Horrocks) dutifully knits crochet bicycles only for them to immediately collapse or when the chickens use the sun and a magnifying glass to make popcorn, these moments are just so fun and wondrous, because of how they came about.
Then there is Fun-Land Farm itself–part The Truman Show part Squid Games part nightmare carnival vibes. It's the opposite of the lush, tranquil island. It's essentially another prison, albeit one dressed up like a chicken's dream come true. The bright plastic backdrops, the rides, slides, and even an escalator all appear to be just heavenly. However when the camera zooms out, we see this is just an upgraded version of Tweedy's hellscape, surrounded by barbed wire, steel, and an insane security system. It has all the inner workings that make these productions so appealing. Like when Gromit was shifted out of bed and thanks to some nifty gadgets ended up dressed and eating breakfast, the mechanics the Aardman team have put to use here are awe-inspiring.
Ultimately, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is a simple but clever entertaining follow-up to the beloved Chicken Run. It doesn't necessarily break new ground but that's not a bad thing. After waiting over 20 years to find out what happened to Ginger and Rocky, it felt like no time had passed. Molly is a wonderful new addition to the flock, I could see more adventures to come with her. Aardman one again has proved they have what it takes to deliver unique, spirited stories that will capture fans for generations to come.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget premieres on Netflix December 15. It is rated PG for peril, action and some thematic elements with a runtime of 101 minutes.