Chicken Run Dawn of the Nugget 2023 Movie Review
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Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget 2023 Movie Review

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Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget 2023 Movie Review

Reluctantly flocking into Netflix 23 years after the original “Chicken Run,” Sam Fell’s animated sequel “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget” is something sadder than the worst movie of 2023. It is the year’s most disappointing.

Why? For starters, we expect a lot from Aardman Animation, the indisputable wizards and paramours of stop motion that made the world fall in love with the adventures of “Wallace & Gromit”—the middle-class English gentleman and his wisely eye-rolling dog—and “Shaun the Sheep,” and created the freedom-hungry chickens of the predecessor of this stale entry.

Unfortunately, there is nothing that lands as original or funny in “Dawn of the Nugget,” which feels spared of the wit, genuine laughs and droll vocabulary (remember nellypodging?) of the first movie. What we instead get is a servicable enough film with borrowed ideas and uninspired giggles that shortchanges kids and grown-ups alike, where neither the heroes nor the villains of the tale seem interesting or memorable enough to pay attention to.

The story takes place some years after the events of “Chicken Run,” which focused on a group of chickens, including Rocky and Ginger (played by Zachary Levi and Thandiwe Newton in this installment), who refused to become chicken pies and escaped the evil Tweedy’s Farm, run by a menacing Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson in both chapters). Now, with the trauma of that great escape safely behind them, the chickens seem to be happily and securely residing on an island that looks like a true slice of paradise, one that welcomes Molly (Bella Ramsay, with a sweet voice performance), the first child of Rocky and Ginger.

It all seems too good to be true for a while, with the chicks lazing around and stretching their wings as they like, while their rat allies Fowler and Fetcher support their lifestyles by supplying them with everyday necessities. That is, until Molly grows up, believes that she is now “a big girl” and develops a curious appetite for—you guessed it—the dangerous outside world.

This premise sets the stage for a timeless story of adolescent disobedience and bravery that is familiar from several children’s yarns and popular animated films, including “Finding Nemo” and, from the looks of it, the upcoming “Migration.” In all of them, the young ones have to prove to their parents the hard way that they are capable of solitary adventures and deserving of their own original pursuits. But in “Dawn of the Nugget” all these plot devices feel curiously second-hand.

Molly follows a friend to the outside world with the promise of a better and more adventurous life on a happy farm somewhere, away from her overprotective parents.

Of course, that farm belongs to none other than the evil Mrs. Tweedy, who actually runs an ultra-secure prison with a make-believe happy environment where chickens are brainwashed and stupefied into happiness, which apparently makes them tastier meals in a bucket. (“A happy chicken is a tasty chicken,” her motto goes.

And that’s Mrs. Tweedy’s whole shtick in this new flick—she’s invented a mechanism that instantly turns chickens into delicious nuggets that are savagely adored even by haughty restaurateurs, one of which reminds one of the hard-to-please food critic from “Ratatouille.” (The unoriginality of “Dawn of the Nugget” is really something you can’t unsee.)

For a film that is unmistakably against eating animals and pro-environmentalism, it’s troubling how little “Dawn of the Nugget” makes the viewer care for the plight of the chicken family. Led by Ginger, Rocky and some other members of their winged clan, the rescue operation might offer up a middlingly entertaining time for the young ones, but possibly only for those who haven’t seen any other Aardman picture before. And the lesson that comes on the heels of the rescue—that adventure and security can go hand-in-hand and parents can learn from their offspring—are those that they will sniff from miles away.

In the end, you leave “Dawn of the Nugget” with a bummer of an aftertaste, knowing that not only do kids deserve better, but also that Aardman is capable of something abundantly more sophisticated than a film that feels like it’s patched together by an algorithm. Thankfully, there is always the original “Chicken Run” to ease the pain with. And, hey, that one is also streaming on Netflix.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget 2023 Movie Review