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‘Chicken Little’ has a big heart

The Walt Disney Co. gives Pixar Animation and DreamWorks Animation a run for their money with its first fully computer-animated feature, Chicken Little. Ditching its traditional animation method, Disney tries to prove they are still leaders in family friendly film entertainment with this charming underdog tale.

The sharp digital technology brings the story to life as one little chicken attempts to save the world. For an even more life-like animated experience, the film is being released in select theaters in 3-D format.

The combination of quality computer animation, a delightfully humorous story and perfectly cast voice actors makes Chicken Little a truly pleasant movie-going experience. The characters in the film are a myriad of animals that reside in the seemingly normal town of Oakey Oaks. Chicken Little, voiced by Zach Braff, is the town outcast for his major flub of ringing the emergency bell while screaming, “The sky is falling!” Chaos ensues after Little’s alert, and he becomes the laughingstock of the town when it is determined that his falling sky was nothing more than a mere acorn. The story flashes forward a year after the bell-ringing incident, as Little tries to find acceptance despite his infamous reputation.

At school, Little is part of the unpopular group along with other misfits such as Abby Mallard (Joan Cusak), who is the ugly duckling, and a giant pig named Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn). They are also accompanied by Fish Out of Water whose water-filled scuba helmet keeps his speech to indistinguishable gurgles. Little’s accident-prone nature and small stature do not help him win any friends or the town’s respect.

The emotional part of the story focuses on the relationship between Chicken Little and his father, Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall). Cluck is a single father trying to raise Little, who he doesn’t really understand. As the film progresses, closure is found between the duo, and the story manages to be sweet without being saccharine.

Just as Little finds redemption in the eyes of his father and the town, the sky begins to fall once more – literally, this time. His friends join him in trying to uncover the mystery behind the piece of falling sky, and they are led on an exciting alien adventure, which nearly causes the world to be destroyed. The film effectively creates tension and pulls audience support for the tiny outcast gang to save the planet.

Chicken Little is able to accomplish the tedious task of being equally humorous and entertaining to adults and children. Most of the jokes find the balance of being just far enough over children’s heads to make adults laugh but just silly enough to keep the kids roaring. Its short running time makes the plot feel a bit rushed for the older audience, but the pace is perfect for little ones’ short attention spans.

Like most animated films, Chicken Little’s characters are only as good as their voices. The cast does a superb job of making the furry and feathered characters as animated as they appear. Braff excels as the high-pitched, awkward Little. Zahn is outrageously funny as the disco-loving Runt, and Cusak sweetly brings Abby to life. A host of surprising guests lend their voices to the film and add more humor to the adorable plot.

Chicken Little is a big score for Disney and will surely prove prosperous at the box office. They were able to prove there is still some magic left in Disney with this touching tale. After the horrors of Halloween, this film is a welcome change of tune and a good way to welcome the fall family- oriented holidays.

Grade: A

Running time: 77 min.