Film Fridays is a project initiated by Sarah and I. After doing a daily music challenge for a month last year we talked about doing something similar for movies. The current global lockdowns give us the perfect excuse to start. Many of us are confined to home with only the TV for company so we thought we would start ‘Film Fridays’ so that we can talk about our favourite movies and hopefully give our readers some ideas for things to watch. If you join us please tag filmfriday and link back to one or both of us so we can read your own contributions!
We would be delighted if you would join us! We don’t necessarily want to talk about the nerdy technical details but more about why these films speak to us as individuals, why they have a place in out hearts, and any personal memories they evoke.
Sarah and I have shared our lists and decided to tackle them as written – in my case in alphabetical order because I am sad like that….
‘Chicken Run’ (2000)
The trailer is on Youtube at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEOfT7hUcDs
Last week I could not write about ‘Blade Runner’. This week I’ve opted for a comedy about escape from confinement. Interpret this how you like, but it genuinely was next on my list!
I found out yesterday that I am to return to work on Tuesday and I am strangely relieved. I will be able to separate ‘work’ from ‘home’ again. Any trepidation is not related to my safety but is simply because I don’t want to go – but that was the case even before the pandemic!
So, ‘Chicken Run’ is basically an animated spoof of the ‘POW escape’ movies and was originally pitched as a spoof of, specifically, ‘The Great Escape’. It follows the escape attempts of the inmates of Tweedy’s chicken farm after they discover a nefarious plan by Mrs Tweedy to ditch collecting their eggs but turn them into chicken pies instead. They are ‘assisted’ by cocky American rooster, Rocky.
Chicken run was made by Aardman Animations, based in Bristol, UK. They had been using their characteristic stop-motion animation since 1972 on a variety of TV shows,TV ads and short movies – and of course Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’ video. They came to prominence as a result of their wonderful series of short movies about their characters ‘Wallace and Gromit’. By 2000 they had attracted big studio interest and when pitching Chicken Run, their first full-length movie, they gained backing from Dreamworks. Chicken Run was a huge hit, both critically and financially, and remains the highest-grossing stop-motion animated movie of all time.
I love this movie on so many levels. As with many movies on my list, the production design and the care that has gone into creating this miniature world is astonishing. Remember everything had to be made from scratch – right down to the rusting oil cans and cobwebs in the shed (little details that a lesser team simply would not bother with).
The in-jokes are really clever and well chosen. It is a delight spotting the references to other movies (including Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as assorted escape movies).
The voice cast are on great form too. A real coup was getting Mel Gibson to voice Rocky, but he definitely does not outshine the home-grown talent. The main protagonist Ginger is played by Julia Sawalha and the other chickens by a list of great British female character actors including Jane Horrocks and Imelda Staunton. Mr and Mrs Tweedy are played by the fabulous Tony Haygarth and Miranda Richardson. Phil Daniels and Timothy Spall voice the two rats who smuggle things into the compound for the chickens, and are based on wartime black-marketeers.
The humour: Well, the film is hilarious. Much of the slapstick timing is reminiscent of Laurel & Hardy but the character-based humour is wonderful too. Aardman founder Peter Lord is from Bristol in the South of the UK but the humour is very Northern in style – as is that of Wallace & Gromit who are Northern characters. It is therefore no surprise that co-writer and director Nick Park is from Preston in Lancashire, just a few miles from me. (Stan Laurel, who wrote Laurel & Hardy’s material, was also from Lancashire by the way.)
This does lead me to my tiny criticism of the movie. Like much Northern comedy it portrays the male characters as idiots & dreamers, kept in check by practical and somewhat bossy women. Recently I have looked upon such movies with a more critical eye and imagining the uproar if the sexes were reversed. That said – as a Lancashire man myself I find there is more than a grain of truth in these caricatures…
Personally, my favourite characters are the two rats, who look upon the proceedings with detached amusement. Basically me in meetings 😉
A sequel is apparently in the works….