Wallace & Gromit fans rejoice! Aardman's original blend of claymation and gentle humour is well in evidence in this laugh-out-loud funny tale of a rebellious chicken named Ginger (voice of Julia Sawalha, Saffy in Absolutely Fabulous) and her elaborate plans to lead a breakout from a gloomy egg farm.
Writer-directors Nick Park and Peter Lord are wonderfully creative in the touches that illustrate this animated take on a prison movie. Ginger crafts complex escape routes that are diagrammed like American football plays. Human implements have radically different uses for these small animals: egg beaters become digging tools, a badminton shuttlecock doubles as a chicken's wedding veil or Indian headdress, old egg cartons are used as bleacher seats by a couple of mice.
The characters also have vivid individuality, not just in personality, but in physical appearance. We relish the differences between the ditsy chicken Babs (Jane Horrocks, Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous), the fiercely independent Ginger, the evil farm owner Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) and her hen-pecked husband. Please forgive the pun.
Above all, the production and distinctive style of the movie make it a great joy to watch. My favorite is the liquids: pouring coffee and dripping rain have a heavy, slow-motion quality not found in nature. Here the chicken have teeth and curtains over their windows, but that's okay.
Lord and Park juxtapose the laughable and the tragic. The silly looking bottom-heavy hens are funny until they're confronted with the possibility of death. A chicken-pie making machine is like a deadly amusement park ride - one of several sequences that showcase the animation to good effect.
Sawalha is wonderfully deadpan as Ginger, who gets exasperated dealing with the hormonal, nervy bunch of females on the farm. Mel Gibson is in his element as Rocky the Rooster, the "lone free ranger" who charms all the "beautiful chicks." I really lost it when he slicked back his rooster comb, for all the world like John Travolta in Grease.
In the grand tradition of all romantic comedies - human or not - Rocky and Ginger strike sparks. If you've ever wondered how to portray sexual tension between two chickens, this movie does as good a job as I could imagine.
Overall, this film will most appeal to young children, but their parents should have a good time. Be alert for inside references to Star Trek and other adult humour! And even the obligatory debate over which came first (you know, the chicken or the egg) is delivered with panache.