Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (2023)
Director: Sam Fell
Screenwriters: Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell, Rachel Tunnard
Starring: Bella Ramsey, Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Imelda Staunton, Lynn Ferguson, David Bradley, Jane Horrocks, Romesh Ranganathan, Daniel Mays, Josie Sedgwick-Jones, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Mohammed, Miranda Richardson
On the surface, the original Chicken Run (2000) was a fantastic children’s movie and a feat for animated films. It was 90 minutes of pure feathery fun and righteous chicken anger. The movie had impeccable comedic timing akin to Aardman Studio’s other works like Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. These movies have a beating heart and soul that has stuck with children and adults alike because of their ability to wrap us in the warm hug of their respective worlds. And still, beneath it all lies something even deeper, something profound. For many millennials and cuspers, Chicken Run was an introduction to Marxism and revolution itself.
As rebel chicken, Ginger (played by Julia Sawalha in 2000) rallies the hens against tyrannical farmers, she dares them to imagine a world governed only by their own will. “Don’t you get it?” she clucks, “There’s no morning headcount, no dogs, no farmers, no coops and keys, and no fences.” It’s a powerful cry for revolution – a call to rise up against injustice, no matter the cost. Though the film is filled with slapstick humor, its demand to rage against oppression transcends the children’s animation genre, cementing it as a powerful allegory for World War II and universal demands for human (and chicken) rights.
Needless to say, the sequel, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, was highly anticipated by audiences and critics. Nearly 20 years after the original, the follow-up had big shoes to fill. What lessons would the new Chicken Run teach us? Perhaps something about the rise of fascism? Environmentalism? Maybe it would lead us to the answers we’ve all been searching for in these tumultuous times? Unfortunately, Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget takes more of a formulaic follow-up approach than broaching anything remotely groundbreaking.
In this rendition, Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (Zachary Levi, replacing Mel Gibson) return, now living in an idyllic, poultry utopia. Though they are happy in their new homes, they are closed off from the rest of society. Their daughter, Molly (Bella Ramsey), takes after her mother and dreams of life bigger than their confined existence on the island. Soon, Molly escapes to the mainland and finds herself trapped in a chicken factory called Fun-Land Farm. Now, it’s up to the other chickens to break into the factory, a subversion from the previous film’s breakout.
Dawn of the Nugget isn’t completely without charm. The animation is beautiful and bright, stepping away from the original film’s muted color palate to favor a more vibrant chicken paradise. Fun-Land Farm is garishly bright, showcasing the false promises of the deceptively named poultry plant. Even the heist-like stunts feel higher stakes and more elaborate. There are more hijinks, slipping, falling, and scrambling than ever.
Though the scale feels dialled up to 11, the film is missing its original creativity and simplistic but resilient spirit that made it an instant classic. Dawn of the Nugget is much more concerned with simple tropes like breaking away from tradition and marching to the beat of your own drum than anything revolutionary. Its simple premise and resistance to taking risks – both thematically and comedically – make the 101-minute run feel like a bit of a slog.
It’s a lot to ask of a film – to be both a succinct manifesto about the state of modern politics and revolutionary movements and a hokey comedy about chickens falling on their heads – but it has been done before. Perhaps the reason Dawn of the Nugget felt so flat is the enormous shadow its predecessor casts upon the film. And, in the 20 years in between the first and second editions of Ginger and Rocky’s story, we’ve had plenty of time to fill in the gaps on our own. Dawn of the Nugget is a fine movie to turn on for the kids on a Saturday afternoon, but turn on Chicken Run (2000) and you might just have a revolution on your hands.
Recommended for you: Aardman Animation Movies 2000-2020 Ranked