The original Chicken Run (2000), which is generally considered the best riff on The Great Escape ever made starring stop-motion poultry, did not require a sequel – but here it is anyway. Now you’ll probably expect me to say that Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget isn’t a patch on the original so I will: it isn’t. It’s not bad-bad. It’s definitely something you can stick the kids in front of, given they don’t know any better. But it’s not nearly as inventive or funny or affecting and, while Aardman films have always looked and sounded like no other, this has a generic rather than a quirky, handmade feel. Chances are you’ve had bigger disappointments in life, but it is a disappointment all the same.
Directed by Sam Fell with a screenplay by Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell and Rachel Tunnard, we find our chicken pals just where we left them: happily living on an island, having escaped from the evil Mrs Tweedy and her pie-making venture. The island is a utopian paradise and brightly, cartoonishly colourful in a way that the original wasn’t. That opened darkly, with the chickens imprisoned in a second world war-style concentration camp and before we go on, might I offer you a word of advice? Don’t re-watch the first film prior to starting this. It is not a good idea.
This time, Rocky is voiced by Zachary Levi instead of Mel Gibson, understandably, while Ginger is voiced by Thandiwe Newton instead of Julia Sawalha, inexplicably. They hatch a baby, Molly (Bella Ramsey), who has pluck, you could say, and grows up wanting to explore, like Simba from The Lion King, who also needs a good telling off. Molly escapes to the mainland where she is immediately entranced by the ‘Fun-Land Farm’ lorries with their pictures of happy-seeming chickens sitting in buckets painted on the sides.