CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET
December 15, 2023 / Netflix
Starring: Jane Horrocks, Zachary Levi, Thandiwe Newton, David Bradley, Lynn Ferguson
Directed By: Sam Fell
From the multi Academy and BAFTA award-winning Aardman (Creature Comforts, Wallace & Gromit, and Shaun the Sheep), and Academy Award and BAFTA-nominated director Sam Fell (ParaNorman and Flushed Away, respectively), comes Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the beloved and highest-grossing stop-motion animated film of all time, Chicken Run. 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!
Written By Darren
Rating 3.5 out of 5
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget brings back everyone’s favourite chickens for another great escape that with stellar claymation stop motion animation from Aardman and a great supporting voice cast, there is no question that this long awaited sequel will delight audiences during the holiday season.
Back in 2000, Aardman Animation, the creators of the beloved Wallace and Gromit, released their first full length feature film: Chicken Run. It became an instant hit for both them and distributor DreamWorks Animation with audiences, which to this day is still the highest grossing stop motion animated film of all time. Twenty three years later, the film still remains a delightful, hilarious and crowd pleasing film that is bursting with a great comedic energy, excellent voice performances and stellar stop motion animation. This reviewer wore out his VHS copy of the film growing up, and with the announcement of the sequel, despite the original film being long overdue for the sequel treatment, I was excited to return to the world and see what happens next for Ginger and her flock. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is a welcomed return to the world, the humour and the unforgettable characters that we first met over two decades ago, that despite the two original stars not being asked back to voice their characters and being replaced, has the same heart, laughter and stunning animation that made the original a box office smash.
Years after escaping Tweedy’s egg farm, Ginger, Rocky and the rest of the flock are enjoying their idyllic life on their island sanctuary. But Ginger and Rocky’s daughter Molly years to see the outside world, and in the process of doing so, unwittingly discovers a new threat to chicken-kind. With Molly’s life in danger, Ginger, Rocky and the rest of the flock must not only save Molly, but prevent this new chicken farm from destroying chicken-kind as they know it.
Revisiting an animated world twenty three years later is no easy task, as the world and characters do not necessarily have the recognition with younger audiences who are the target of the film, and it has to also draw back in the children who grew up with the original who are now adults. But, the writers of the original film have returned and not only succeed in appeasing both age groups, they have created an extremely witty, hilarious and heartwarming film that captures the spirit of the original, even if it does not reach the outstanding standard set by the original. The humour is very British, combining wit and silliness to create some truly laugh out loud moments, while the family bond between Ginger, Rocky Molly, and the rest of the flock is incredibly endearing. From a plot perspective, it's a natural extension of the story in the first film and the break in aspect is a great way of bringing the familiar Chicken Run feel to the sequel while doing something new. It works as a stand alone story for new younger viewers who have not seen the original, while there are enough nods to the original film that returning viewers will feel the nostalgia.
For the most part, the supporting voice cast return for the sequel, and they are the highlight of the film. Jane Horrocks, Imelda Staunton and Lynn Ferguson as Babs, Bunty and Mac never miss a beat, effortlessly slipping back into their memorable roles from the first film. It feels like they never left the characters with the spirit they bring to the film, and it’s a true delight to watch them once again in these roles. David Bradley easily fills the shoes of the late Benjamin Whitrow as Fowler with a voice performance so close to the original that it is hard to tell it's a recasting, and delivers some of the funniest moments of the film. Having Miranda Richardson return as the villainous Mrs. Tweedy was a wonderful treat as Richardson captures the same diabolical energy she had in the original film. For newcomers to the series, the film has some great additions to the cast. Bella Ramsey is a standout and Ginger and Rocky’s daughter Molly, capturing the spirited adventurous personality of Molly in every scene, helping to create the heart of the film. Nick Mohammed and Peter Serafinowicz make for fun additions to the film’s roster of villains, each providing some great comedic relief throughout that is a good counterbalance to Richardson’s characters to keep the tone of the story light.
Then, there is the replacement voice casting for Ginger and Rocky with Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi. No disrespect to both Newton and Levi who are both great actors and do their best in this film, but they pale in comparison to the performances of Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson in the original. Sawalha and Gibson’s voice performances made the original film a hit, and it’s frankly absurd neither were asked back, especially Sawalha who’s recasting is due to the studio believing she sounded too old. For younger viewers and newcomers to the world of Chicken Run, Newton and Levi will do the trick in the lead role, but for fans of the original, they both fail to capture the magic that Sawalha and Gibson brought to the original.
Aardman Animation made entertainment headlines this year for a reported shortage of clay, the studio went on the record assuring that this was not the case, and fans should rejoice knowing they can continue to make films that look as incredible as Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. For decades, Aardman Animation has been a leader in stop motion animation, and their work truly pops off the screen in this film. The fluidity in the movement of the characters and vehicles is lifelike, the colours pop off the screen, and the entire film comes to life thanks to the animation. It’s a testament to the powers of stop motion animation and the dedication of Aardman Animation in their craftsmanship sculpting these characters and this world out of clay, creating one of the most marvelous animated features of the year that should gain the studio some well deserved awards nominations.
While it will never replace the original Chicken Run, which will remain one of the greatest stop motion animated films of all time, as far as sequels go, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget hits all the right notes. Even with some unfortunate recasting decisions, it’s impossible not to be overcome with nostalgia, laughter and pure joy while watching Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget thanks to the outstanding supporting voice performances, hilarious and heartfelt story, and sensational claymation stop motion animation.