I was shocked the other day when a friend of mine said she'd never heard of Aardman Animations, their Wallace & Gromit series of clay animated shorts, or their three(!) Oscars. So for those of you living in that cave with her, Aardman are these clever British folks who've been making excellent clay animations for over a decade, and now they've made their first feature, Chicken Run, about some "fowl schemers" (this movie is pun-filled) on a poultry farm in 1950s England who are trying to escape the clutches of the wretched farm owners before they can be turned into chicken pot pies.
Have you noticed that the movies which consistently score the highest critical acclaim lately are all animated? Toy Story 2, The Iron Giant, and now Chicken Run have received far more universal praise than any live action feature around. Could it be due to this rare and magical thing known as "the well-told story"?
Here's my theory: Because animation is such a lengthy, detail-oriented process, the story must be perfected in advance, so that all the talented artists who work on the film can be on the same page. Animation can also be a headache, so plenty of people along the line will raise their hands and ask, "Does the scene have to be this long?" or "Do we really need that shot?" Any animator will agree that the tighter the story, the better the planning, the more time and care can be put into the details.
Chicken Run is a shining example of such time and care, and it's a clever, worthwhile - and very British - diversion for smart adults as well as smart children. No deep emotional masterpiece, but highly entertaining and very funny. Go see it.