Chicken Run
***.2 GM
Starring: Julia Sawalha, Mel Gibson, Phil Daniels, Lynn Ferguson, Tony Haygarth, Jane Horrocks, Miranda Richardson, Timothy Spall, Benjamin Whitrow, Imelda Staunton

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I've got occasional unresolved guilt about meat-eating. I don't think I could hack it as a vegetarian because I like meat products too much... but most of the stuff I read and hear seems to strongly indicate that being a vegetarian is a pretty good thing to do (although my research is nowhere near exhaustive), and I suppose a trip to a slaughterhouse would really drive the point home. This film could also serve the purpose of weaning people off of meat by making chickens look entertaining and intelligent, but then there are all those Burger King commercials where the chickens are advocating the consumption of beef to save their own necks... those miserable bastards! Barnyard sellouts, they are!

Anyway, in this neat-o story, a bunch of hens are trapped on Tweedy's Egg Farm by dastardly egg farmers, and when they're too old to make eggs, they're turned into headless chickens - although it has apparently been documented that some chickens can live for months without a head. Go figure. So Ginger (Julia Sawalha) constantly tries to bust her friends free and escape, with no luck. When Rocky the Flying Rooster (Mel Gibson) shows up, they think he can teach them all to fly and bust 'em free. Hilarity ensues.

There are some great parodies of classic prison break films here, made funnier if you've actually seen the films being parodied, such as "The Great Escape." On the whole, it's a funny, well-crafted and very well done film that never resorts to Peabo Bryson musical numbers - a quality very much appreciated in animated films these days. As a matter of fact, there's even a scene where the hens are taught to dance for the first time - and no Peabo in earshot! They actually pick a really cool song called "Flip, Flop & Fly" and use the radio for it! Hooray!

Standout characters are Fowler, the crochety old rooster veteran of the RAF, the rather dumb-seeming Mr. Tweedy that, nonetheless, can spout off really funny threats like "NO CHICKEN ESCAPES FROM TWEEDY'S FAAARRRRM!!!" and the wiseacre little rats that get all the supplies for the hens. Stay for the credits and listen to these two little goobers debate one of life's greatest questions with amusing simplicity.

A good time shall be had by all. It's quick witted, different and entertaining all around.

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