Chicken Little, Disney’s first fully computer-animated feature film, is a takeoff on the famous fable about the flustered fowl who gets conked on the head with an acorn and overreacts, convinced that the sky is falling. Accordingly, no conclusion will be drawn here about a sky-wide decline in Disney’s storytelling capabilities based solely on the company’s first direct bid to match the achievements of Pixar and DreamWorks.
Instead, focus will remain on the banality of the acorns dropped in this particular endeavor, another in a new breed of mass-market comedy that substitutes self-reference for original wit and pop songs for emotional content.
Production notes boast that Chicken Little himself (voiced by Scrubs‘ Zach Braff with generic ebullience) is computer-clad in more than 76,000 individual feathers, but what the cluck do we care about erisimilitude of plumage when the issues between the scrawny hero and his father (Garry Marshall) are so derivative? Dad’s a single parent who at first doesn’t believe in his son, until the arrival of real danger ignored by the town’s adults, and squawk squawk squawk.
The tech complexity employed to replicate muscle movement doesn’t make up for the simplistic colorlessness of the characters — including a recycled trio of fellow outsiders as Little’s friends and a standard collection of naysayers and oddballs among his adversaries. Each represents a joke delivered before, and better, by Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Shrek, and the vast heaven of TV sitcoms. What falls in Chicken Little are hopes.