Movie Review: ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’

'Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget.'

‘Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

In select theaters now and on Netflix on December 15th, ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’ is British animation experts Aardman finally revisiting a story they first put on screens back in 2000, a time when a sizeable portion of its target audience wasn’t even born yet.

That doesn’t hold it back, though; a little like Pixar, Aardman’s work has always been entertaining the whole family, or indeed anyone who likes well-crafted entertainment.

A confusing casting choice aside, this return to the story is every bit as fun as the original.

Is ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’ worth breaking into?

Rocky (Zachary Levi), Nick (Romesh Ranganathan), Fetcher (Daniel Mays) in 'Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget' coming to Netflix on 15th December.

(L to R) Rocky (Zachary Levi), Nick (Romesh Ranganathan), Fetcher (Daniel Mays) in ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’ coming to Netflix on 15th December. Photo: Aardman/NETFLIX © 2023.

2000’s ‘Chicken Run’ was a witty, wonderful combination of World War II prison camp escape spoof and meet-cute, opposites-attract romantic comedy. It showed that Aardman could bring its subversive, funny style to theaters.

It never quite reaches the heights of, say, the company’s ‘Wallace & Gromit’ output, but it’s still a family-friendly caper.

‘Dawn of the Nugget’ replicates that feeling, albeit with some new CG-assisted tricks that more modern cinematic technology allows. Don’t go assuming it loses any of the hand-crafted charm of Aardman’s output, though –– you can still see the fingerprints in the clay, and the heart is very much intact.

‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’: Script and Direction

Dry Fry (Nick Mohammed), Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson), Sir Eatalot (Matt Berry) in 'Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.'

(L to R) Dry Fry (Nick Mohammed), Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson), Sir Eatalot (Matt Berry) in ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.’ Photo: Aardman/NETFLIX © 2023.

Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell and Rachel Tunnard are responsible for the movie’s screenplay (Kirkpatrick and O’Farrell both contributed to the original), and they maintain the high joke ratio and warmly-created characters, while adding to it in interesting ways. Moving Rocky and Ginger’s story ahead to the next generation keeps things interesting and Molly is a great foil for her parents.

On the visual side of things, Sam Fell (who started his career at Aardman before heading off to work for other companies such as fellow stop-motion team Laika), brings a similar style to the original, while updating it.

As opposed to the World War II trappings of the original, ‘Dawn of the Nugget’ has a lot more in common with the likes of Bond movies (the new nugget factory pulls double duty as a villain’s laser, complete with exploding duck mines in the moat) and the ‘Mission: Impossible’ franchise (you’ll be able to spot a couple of riffs to the latter’s famous theme tune mixed into the score).

It has plenty of fun sending up both while combining that with the character comedy for which Aardman has also become famous. You don’t have to have seen the original to pick up the story here; some handy flashbacks fill in the details, but if you do watch it (we recommend it), you’ll catch more of the in-jokes and call-backs.

Re;ated Article: Zachary Levi Talks ‘Teddy’s Christmas’ and the Future of Superhero Movies

‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’: Performances

Bunty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson), Rocky (Zachary Levi), Molly (Bella Ramsey), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton), Fowler (David Bradley), and Babs (Jane Horrocks) in 'Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.'

(L to R) Bunty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson), Rocky (Zachary Levi), Molly (Bella Ramsey), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton), Fowler (David Bradley), and Babs (Jane Horrocks) in ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

The first movie had the voices of Mel Gibson and British sitcom actor Julia Sawalha (she’s perhaps best known for playing Jennifer Saunders’ put-upon daughter in ‘Absolutely Fabulous’) as Rocky and Ginger.

Swapping out the seriously problematic Gibson for Levi (not completely without issue himself, but far less toxic at least) feels like a smart move, but the confusion is replacing Sawalha with Thandiwe Newton. Not that Newton isn’t great as Ginger, channeling enough of the original voice while bringing her own spin to it, but Sawalha has said that she was available to work and happy to return, so the choice is an odd one.

Still, much of the rest of the original cast is back, voicing a variety of funny foul characters. Jane Horrocks is never less than funny as the endlessly ditzy Babs, and it’s great to have the likes of Imelda Staunton and Lynn Ferguson back on vocal duty.

The new recruits fit in seamlessly, including ‘Harry Potter’s David Bradley as Fowler, a confused veteran who can still show some impressive logistical and espionage skills and Romesh Ranganathan as Nick, a crafty rat who helps the main characters.

And Bella Ramsey, who has been so impressive in the likes of ‘Game of Thrones’ and particularly ‘The Last of Us’, brings a real spirit of adventure and rebelliousness to Molly. It would have been easy to make her just be a copy of her mother but Ramsey’s work, combined with the script, means it’s never that.

‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’: Final Thoughts

'Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget.'

‘Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

If you’re a die-hard (yes, that Bruce Willis classic is also referenced) fan of the original, ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’ is a more than fitting follow-up, which boasts a similar spirit and updates the aesthetic, and you’ll find yourself rooting for the feathery heroes all over again.

Oh, while the trailer somewhat gives it away, there is a great surprise return for one of the best characters of the original. We won’t spoil that here for you.

‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’ receives 8 out of 10 stars.

What’s the story of ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’?

Having pulled off a death-defying escape from Tweedy’s farm, Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) 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 (Zachary Levi) 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!

Who else is in ‘Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget’?

The voices outside of the leads include David Bradley, Lynn Ferguson, Imelda Staunton, Daniel Mays, Bella Ramsey, Romesh Ranganathan and Nick Mohammed.

'Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget.'

‘Chicken Run: Dawn of The Nugget.’ Photo: Courtesy of Netflix © 2023.

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