Week 7 is here! And by that I mean, of course, that I watched the Week 7 movie finally when, in reality, it has been like 5 weeks since Week 6. Am I ashamed of this? A little bit. Should I be? Absolutely not. And here’s why:
- Not sure if you heard about it, but there is a global pandemic. The anxiety from that cataclysmic, world-ending-esque event alone is enough to paralyze me on any given day.
- I started a new job, which will always require a lot of focus and time. Oh, and did I mention there is a GLOBAL PANDEMIC. So, I am learning everything and meeting new people remotely. Again, time and focus.
And honestly, those are my only two excuses. I really thought more would come to me once I started the numbered list thing. Regardless, now is the time to move forward.
This week’s challenge was to watch a stop-motion film. I could’ve easily phoned this one in because one of my favorite films of all time is Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and I could’ve written a 4000 word blog about that in my sleep. But, for you, I decided to go back and revisit a film I’d only seen once when I was around 7-years-old, Chicken Run. Let’s get to it!
If ever there was a juggernaut in the stop-motion animation space, it would definitely be Aardman and Director Nick Park. The aforementioned collaboration is responsible for creating perhaps the most beloved stop-motion characters of all time, Wallace and Gromit. Chicken Run is a stop-motion, claymation film from the collaborating studios of Aardman Animations and DreamWorks. The film is widely known for being a cinematic achievement in the area of stop-motion as it came out at a time when feature-length stop motion pictures were not common (spoiler alert: they still aren’t common). Additionally, it is the also the highest grossing stop-motion film of all time. According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed north of $224 million combined in domestic and international box offices. In a way, Chicken Run really demanded to be the choice for Week 7, so I was excited to give it another look.
It would be criminal to start a review of any stop-motion film without first addressing the art. Similar to comic books, animated films have to be judged by the quality of the art as much as they are judged by the quality of the narrative. In this case, I am happy to report that the art in this movie – still to this day, I might add – is absolutely jaw-dropping. And what’s really interesting about this is that I am not really a fan of the character design (chickens with teeth? eww.). Usually, disliking something as fundamental as the character design would mean bad news for my thoughts on the movie but, in this case, the quality of animation was so high that the characters themselves were not the focal point.
Which brings me to the crux of my thoughts on this movie. The one characteristic of Chicken Run that makes it a remarkable cinematic achievement is that it wasn’t limited by its medium. It was as if they wrote and designed this movie focused solely on the narrative and all decisions made were agnostic of the animation. The reason I say that is that the filmmakers attempt many things I would not expect in a stop-motion film: legitimate slapstick comedy, storms with lightning, mid-air battle sequences, the list goes on. But they did all of those things and I’d have to imagine that is because they prioritized their story and basically said “we’ll figure it out” on the animation side of things. They clearly took zero shortcuts and it’s extraordinarily admirable.
Now for the rest of the film which, frankly, is slightly underwhelming. Despite great voice acting performances, the narrative is one-dimensional and predictable. And yes, with any kids movie there is going to be a certain level of predictability. But this movie didn’t do anything new with its character builds or inter-character relationships to add a layer of intrigue or uniqueness. For that reason, it struggled to keep my attention.
Additionally, the British-style comedy that often appears in Aardman productions is not my personal favorite. I remember being floored when another Aardman production, Shaun the Sheep, got rave reviews because I found it incredibly boring. So, I’ll just chalk that up as British humor not being my cup of tea (see what I did there?).
The story itself is nothing of significance in comparison to the artwork and execution. To love Chicken Run is to love the artform of stop-motion animation and I really do think it is as simple as that. It’s also worth noting that the sequel to Chicken Run has been picked up by Netflix and is expected to join their catalog in 2021.
Kernel Score: 7.2/10
Week 8’s challenge is to watch a film “Set During a Historic War.” And, because I loved Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods from earlier this year, I’m definitely going with a Vietnam War movie. The question is which one… I’ll leave it up to you to decide. Keep an eye on our Facebook page this week for a chance to help choose which film I’ll watch next. Thanks for reading!