James M's review of CHICKEN RUN (2000)


Hi, guys. Near the end of last year, Dreamworks released CHICKEN RUN: DAWN OF THE NUGGET, the sequel to 2000's CHICKEN RUN, on Netflix. Now, before reviewing the sequel, let's take a look at the first movie.

First, some background.

Dreamworks is the studio behind many hits such as WALLACE & GROMIT and, of course, SHREK. Oh, let's not forget SHARK TALE. However, those aren't the ONLY films they're known for, and this is where CHICKEN RUN comes in. The movie is basically THE GREAT ESCAPE, but with chickens... and a rooster. Yep, it's a parody of 1963's World War II epic, but instead of soldiers and pilots trying to escape a Nazi camp during World War II, it's British chickens, a few rats, and an American rooster escaping a farm run by greedy tunnel-visioned woman and her kinda observant farmer husband. The wonderful Mel Brooks voices the character of Rocky Rhodes, the rooster, and Mrs. Tweedy, the main villain, is voiced by Miranda Richardson, who reprises her role in the sequel. 

Oh, and the film is made by Peter Lord and Nick Park, the same lads who were involved with the WALLACE & GROMIT films. And by the way, one of the inspirations for the film came from an incident that happened in Nick Park's youth where several pet chickens of his tried to escape their pen. Yeah, chickens can kinda try to escape. Don't think about it too much. So, let's get into the story of the movie.

In 1953, somewhere in Yorkshire, England, a chicken named Ginger tries to escape a farm, which looks like a World War II prison camp, during the night while Mr. Willard Tweedy is on guard duty. Ginger's plan fails as she is caught by Mr. Tweedy, his dogs, and his wife Mrs. Tweedy, who demands to know what Ginger is doing outside the fence and tells Mr. Tweedy to deal with it. Mr. Tweedy throws the chicken into solitary confinement in a coal box, and yells at the other chickens to let it be a lesson to the lot of them.


Life on the farm isn't kind to the chickens, whose job is to lay eggs, then the Tweedys take the eggs and sell them. And when the chickens stop laying eggs, they are killed. Mrs. Tweedy is pretty much a ruthless prison warden/Nazi camp commandant figure here, with Mr. Tweedy as her henchman. Ginger makes more attempts to escape with her friends, but she always gets caught and thrown in the coal box. One morning, during roll call, a chicken named Edwina is taken away after she stops laying eggs for days and is beheaded by Mrs. Tweedy.

Ginger is not about to give up, and calls for a meeting with the other chickens after dark. Two rats named Nick and Fletcher get involved, and Ginger asks for their help before she goes to take care of the escape committee. Meanwhile, Mrs. Tweedy has become fed up with making profits off eggs and discovers "a way to make some real money" around the farm. As she's reading into the solution, Mr. Tweedy is observing the farm and remarks that the chickens are up to something, saying they're organized, and reckons that Ginger is "their leader". 

Mrs. Tweedy, being the ruthlessly overconfident, tunnel-visioned, and pretty abusive housewife that she is, gets irked with what her husband has to say and calls the notions ridiculous before telling Mr. Tweedy that it's all in his head. She tells him to keep telling himself that, but when Mr. Tweedy tries to tell her about Ginger's prior escape attempts, Mrs. Tweedy gets angry and shouts that the chickens are the most stupid creatures on the planet.

"THEY DON'T PLOT, THEY DON'T SCHEME, AND THEY ARE NOT ORGANIZED!" She yells, completely unaware that Ginger and the chickens are having a meeting and planning another escape attempt at that moment. Amidst the meeting, Mr. Tweedy comes to check on the chickens before Mrs. Tweedy calls him away. Ginger plans for her and the others to make their new home in the countryside, even though others seem to have doubts.

Ginger steps away from the meeting, overwhelmed and clouded by uncertainty, and as she prays for a solution, an American circus rooster arrives and injures himself after seemingly flying in. In actuality, he was fired out of a cannon during a show. Ginger and the others take the rooster in, tend to his injuries, and hide him from Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy (as well as the man in charge of the circus the rooster is from). The rooster introduces himself as Rocky Rhodes and reluctantly agrees to teach the chickens how to fly.

The next day, Rocky begins teaching flying lessons to the chickens with not much progress made (and Mr. Tweedy catches a glimpse of what Ginger and her group are doing at one point). You know what is super off-putting here? The previous night, Mrs. Tweedy told Mr. Tweedy to tell himself "its all in your head". But here, he tries to tell Mrs. Tweedy what's happening, only to see the chickens pecking and Mrs. Tweedy bops him on the head. I'll tell you this now, aside from the scene where Mrs. Tweedy tells her husband to do it, Mr. Tweedy only does the "its all in your head" in two scenes in the movie.

Tangent aside. As night falls, and flying class comes to an end, a truck arrives on the farm and Rocky panics, thinking the circus has come for him. Ginger hides the rooster and watches with the rest of the chickens as the truck, which turns out to be a delivery truck, drops off strange boxes. Mrs. Tweedy tells Mr. Tweedy this is their future and the machine will bring them out of the dark ages, no more wasting time with egg farming. The next morning, Mrs. Tweedy measures the chickens and orders Mr. Tweedy to fatten them up.

Later, as the chickens are partying, Rocky's wing finally recovers, just before Mr. and Mrs. Tweedy activate their newly-made pie machine, which Mrs. Tweedy intends to use to kill the chickens and make pies out of them. To test it, she has Mr. Tweedy get her a chicken. Mr. Tweedy knows just the one, and gets Ginger as subject zero for the chicken pie machine. And I bet he didn't hesitate to tell Mrs. Tweedy why he chose Ginger, reminding her of the chicken's prior escape attempts (and Mr. Tweedy likely did inform her about Ginger's escape attempts in the past after stopping them), and Mrs. Tweedy, despite her "they're not organized" attitude" was like, "Okay, I guess today's your lucky day."

Anyways, Rocky, with some assistance from the other chickens, makes his way into the farm and goes inside the pie machine after Ginger. They narrowly make it out, but not before causing some damage to the machine, which puts it out of order and irks Mrs. Tweedy. The other chickens learn of what Mrs. Tweedy has planned for them and Fowler, a rooster who was in the Royal Air Force during World War II and acts as the chickens' seinor ranking officer, lets Rocky have his bunk. Rocky departs the farm the next morning, and the chickens discover, with help from a poster, that he couldn't actually fly.

However, during a fight involving Fowler, Ginger asks the old rooster about the Royal Air Force and the "Old Crate". Fowler shows the chickens what he's been talking about and Ginger formulates the ultimate escape plan, which involves building a plane. Meanwhile, Mr. Tweedy is working hard to fix the pie machine, and nearly gets it to work again while the chickens are halfway with making the old crate.

The chickens work endlessly on the Old Crate, determined to escape, and, one fateful night, Mr. Tweedy gets the pie machine to work again. Mrs. Tweedy tells him to get all of the chickens, and when he does, Mr. Tweedy is shocked to see the chickens using his tools to work on something. Ginger and her group attack him, causing Mr. Tweedy to scream out to his wife, only for Mrs. Tweedy to ignore him and assume that her husband called the chickens disgusting. Ginger silences Mr. Tweedy, and the chickens trap him under a hut.

At this point, there's no turning back. The chickens finish the plane and prepare to fly, Ginger learns Fowler never piloted the old crate in his RAF days, and convinces him to fly. Fowler agrees, and the plane gets moving. The chickens are just about to lift off when Mr. Tweedy somehow gets up and knocks over the ramp before getting knocked over by the plane. Ginger goes to get the ramp, only for Mrs. Tweedy to intervene with her axe just as Rocky arrives and hits her with a bike.

Ginger and Rocky fix the ramp and the plane takes off. The two flightless birds climb aboard as the Old Crate flies away from the farm. However, Mrs. Tweedy is far from finished as she grabs onto some Christmas lights hanging from the plane, determined to get those chickens. Ginger confronts her, and Mrs. Tweedy tries to kill the smart chicken, only to wind up cutting the line and she falls towards her own farm.

In Fowler's words, "Bombs away!"

Mrs. Tweedy falls into her own pie machine, which blows up due to overwhelming pressure and decimates the barn. Mr. Tweedy checks on his humiliated wife and isn't very delicate when he says he told her Ginger's group "was organized" before the barn doors fall on Mrs. Tweedy. It's not like they actually missed and Mrs. Tweedy is far from finished with the chickens, but that's a different story for another day. The chickens make it to freedom, Ginger and Rocky fall in love, and the story ends with the two rats Nick and Fletcher talking about starting a chicken farm and the question of whether the chicken or the egg came first.

So, that's Chicken Run.

I first saw this film at my grandparents' place in Arizona when I was younger, and they actually let us take it home. Since then, we've kept it in our DVD collection, and I've viewed it multiple times. At one point, I saw it several months after seeing THE GREAT ESCAPE and my most recent viewing of it was right before we watched the sequel. 

For it's time, the movie is wonderfully done, and the soundtrack is quite amazing with THE EVIL MRS. TWEEDY being one heck of a score, going from almost whimsical to being downright terrifying, and there are other fantastic moments with music throughout the movie too. Oh, and Mel Brooks is a fantastical actor to play Rocky, even though Zachary Levi voices him in the sequel, and Miranda Richardson has range as Mrs. Tweedy. By the way, a BTS reel showed her doing the "NO CHICKEN ESCAPES FROM TWEEDY'S FARM" line in Mrs. Tweedy's voice, that kinda implies she was going to be the one to deliver it instead of her husband in the movie.

As for Mr. Tweedy's actor, Tony Haygarth crushed it, and we won't forget such a legend. Rest in peace, Tony, you will be missed deeply. The tone of the movie is also fantastic, it can be serious and then shift into light-hearted territory, all while certain danger looms throughout in various scenes while both sides plan their moves. The animation is fluid, and the suspense is handled decently. If any of you never saw it before, it's on Netflix, DVD and other platforms. Chicken Run gets a 10, and I recommend it to movie nerds out there.

See you.


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