Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget Review

Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget
Years after escaping Tweedy’s farm, chickens Ginger (Newton) and Rocky (Levi) must now rescue their young daughter Molly (Ramsey) from a deadly new threat.

by John Nugent |
Published on
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Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget

That Aardman Animations even exists — still operating out of an unassuming Bristol industrial estate — is nothing short of a miracle. CG-animated blockbusters come and go, but Aardman is a stop-motion port in a storm. That’s not to say it hasn’t evolved: Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget, a sequel to its very first feature film way back in 2000 (ask your parents, kids), retains the long-held artisanal fundamentals of traditional claymation, craft and detail in every contour of Plasticine — but the ambition and technical scope are markedly bolder. There are wild set-pieces, luscious CG-assisted backgrounds, a slickness and clarity that comes with experience (and inflated Netflix budgets).

Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget

It’s different in other ways, too: heroic lead chickens Rocky and Ginger have been recast, for obvious reasons (Mel Gibson) and less obvious reasons (Julia Sawalha), with Zachary Levi and Thandiwe Newton now feathering up, respectively. The married freedom-fighting fowls are living an idyllic life on an island paradise, far away from the horrors of Tweedy’s industrialised farming practices, and raising their teenage child, Molly (Bella Ramsey). Molly is much like her mother: stubborn and adventurous, and curious about the world beyond her limited borders. Sure enough, an inverse adventure of the first film follows, with the chickens breaking into a farm, rather than breaking out, for a daring rescue. If the first film was The Great Escape, this is Mission: Impossible. But with chickens.

It remains a gorgeously realised, and resolutely British, little adventure.

What follows is a gentle, simple fable about growing up, learning how to be a parent, and the dangers of the outside world, screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell and Rachel Tunnard clearly mining their own anxieties and experiences. This is not uncovered ground, of course, and occasionally it can feel generic; more often than not, director Sam Fell (who also helmed Aardman’s rare foray into CGI, Flushed Away) leans into comedy geared towards the recently hatched.

But it remains a gorgeously realised, and resolutely British, little adventure. Many of the returning and new side characters could not have come from anywhere else: Fowler (David Bradley) is a perpetually befuddled RAF rooster straight out of Monty Python; Babs (Jane Horrocks) is pure Victoria Wood silliness; Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies) is a Scouse chicken who says things like, “Me and you, kidda, all the way!” And Aardman’s fondness for parody and pisstakery remains undimmed: the evil chicken farm in this entry takes the form of an elaborate Bond-villain’s lair, with security guards, electric fences, and moats patrolled by laser-guided exploding ducks. It’s the sort of daft bank-holiday humour you wouldn’t expect to find anywhere else.

Silly, witty, extremely British — this is a family film made with a very Aardman-y kind of craft and care. A good egg.
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