Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Chickens with big, bulging eyes and Cockney accents sound scary. But to those familiar with Claymation wizard Nick Park’s unconventional style, they seemed like the poultry next door.
The man behind the endlessly clever Wallace and Gromit shorts made his feature-film debut in 2000 (co-directing with Peter Lord) on Chicken Run, a fable about farm animals rising above their bleak station of being plucked and roasted that shared the same off-kilter tone as Babe.
The Tweedy farm chickens have led unsuccessful, disorganized attempts to escape — that is, until Rocky the Rooster (voiced by Mel Gibson) arrives. They believe he’ll be able to teach them to fly over the fence (per his ballyhooed circus act). This wide cast of inventive characters turns the simple escape plan into a wild ride complete with gadgets galore.
Its retro look is delightful and enchanting, and these characters have more free reign to move with fluidity than other stop-motion creations. A good thing, too, as there are tight situations from which to escape — namely an adventure in a pie machine and the final escape attempt. That finale is on par both with The Great Escape and the classic Wallace and Gromit ending to A Close Shave for rousing excitement and ingenuity.
Park and Lord’s work wisely avoids excluding adults from having fun, the mark of any great family film. And when it came to clever and fun entertainment with a twist, the two proved themselves the cocks of the walk.