Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget Review

Aardman brings their trademark sense of humor and wholesomeness to the long awaited sequel featuring Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi.

Plot: Having pulled off a death-defying escape from Tweedy’s farm, Ginger has finally found her dream — a peaceful island sanctuary for the whole flock, far from the dangers of the human world. When she and Rocky hatch a little girl called Molly, Ginger’s happy ending seems complete. But back on the mainland the whole of chicken-kind faces a new and terrible threat. For Ginger and her team, even if it means putting their own hard-won freedom at risk — this time, they’re breaking in!

Review: Aardman Animation has become synonymous with claymation productions. Since the 1970s, Aardman has pioneered stop-motion short films and is the creator of the beloved Wallace & Gromit characters. Despite years of acclaim, Aardman did not make the leap to feature films until 2000’s Chicken Run. Since then, they have released seven feature films, two computer-animated. Twenty-three years after their first movie, Aardman’s sequel to Chicken Run is debuting on Netflix. Subtitled Dawn of the Nugget, the film sees the return of all of the characters from the original movie, with many voiced by new actors. There are also several brand new characters voiced by Bella Ramsey and Ted Lasso‘s Nick Mohammed, to name a few. The result is the most epic Aardman film with a wholesome story full of the studios’ trademark British sense of humor and more action than all their previous projects combined.

After a brief summary of the first film, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget picks up with Rocky (Zachary Levi replacing Mel Gibson) and Ginger (Thandiwe Newton taking over for Julia Sawalha) awaiting the hatching of their daughter. Living in seclusion after escaping from Mrs. Tweedy’s farm in the first film, the chickens live a quiet life independently. As Rocky and Ginger’s daughter, Molly (The Last of Us star Bella Ramsey), yearns to explore beyond their island sanctuary, Rocky and Ginger try to dissuade her for her own good. Like any rebellious teenager, Molly flies the coop and discovers a massive wonderland for chickens alongside her new friend, Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick Davies). After some light investigation, Molly and Frizzle realize something strange is happening at the compound when they are beset by Dr. Fry (Nick Mohammed) and Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson, reprising her role). The teens must find a way to survive on their own while Rocky and Ginger try to rescue them.

Most of the main plot of Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is revealed in the trailer as Rocky and Ginger enlist the same crew of reluctant poultry that escaped from Tweedy’s Farm in the first film to break into Tweedy’s new compound. The difference between the two farms is that this new facility is closer to the lair of a James Bond villain, with a ton of high-tech gadgets used to guard the perimeter and other weapons scattered throughout to catch any intruders who try to stop chickens from being killed, cooked, and turned into nuggets. Despite the potentially dark direction the story could have gone in, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget shies away from showing any sort of violence, even for comedic effect. There are pratfalls and over-the-top injuries that elicit laughs, but nothing that would scare even the youngest of viewers. But, despite the wide audience that Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget can entertain, there is never a lull in the action as the story makes great use of every second of running time.

When originally announced back in 2018, Mel Gibson not being asked to reprise the role of Rocky was viewed as being due to his public persona but the vast majority of the actors here are new. Romesh Ranganathan and Daniel Mays portray Nick and Fetcher, two rats, replacing Timothy Spall and Phil Daniels. At the same time, Harry Potter alum David Bradley takes over as Fowler from the late Benjamin Whitrow. Returning from the original film are Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton, and Lynn Ferguson as Babs, Bunty, and Mac, all of whom get more to do this time. Of the new cast, Bella Ramsey gets the most screen time, with Levi and Newton supporting her character. Zachary Levi does not have as much gravitas as Mel Gibson, but he compliments Thandiwe Newton well. Ginger and Molly, representing two generations of chickens, lend this story some very relatable moments that will resonate with parents watching with their kids.

Clocking in at about twenty minutes longer than the original Chicken Run, Dawn of the Nugget is the most fully realized Aardman production. The animation style retains the distinct look of claymation, but everything from the characters to the sets looks better. Using CGI to augment backdrops and other elements, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is the most visually impressive claymation film I have seen in a long time. Much of that is credited to the Aardman animators, led by director Sam Fell. Fell debuted with Aardman’s 2006 CGI film Flushed Away before co-directing LAIKA’s ParaNorman. The LAIKA influence has definitely improved Aardman’s visual work, while the script for Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget also brought in some fresh talent. Kary Kirkpatrick, who wrote the 2000 original, co-wrote this sequel alongside John O’Farrell, best known for co-writing the musical Something Rotten! The pair teamed with Rachel Tunnard for a film that keeps its sense of humor tightly connected to the wonderful and wholesome themes of this story.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is exactly the type of family film we need to see more. With Aardman slated to release a sequel to Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit on Netflix, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is a massive coup for the streaming platform to contend with the big studios. Netflix has quietly been building its repertory of animation talent, and the partnership between them and Aardman will be fruitful if their productions can be as good as this. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is very funny, especially for fans of British comedy. Despite twenty-three years between the first film and this sequel, the story feels as fresh and connected as it did back then. I hope we see more of these characters in years to come.

8

Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/chicken-run-dawn-of-the-nugget-review/