Little to enjoy in first post-Pixar Disney CGI movie

“Chicken Little” is the first Disney movie created using computer animation. Sadly, even the venerated Disney has fallen prey to the accepted computer generated movie formual; take an old idea, put a twist on it, get a cast of big-name actors who want to make a quick buck doing some voice work, throw in a lot of pop culture references, and cap it all off with a dance number where the characters take turns singing and dancing to a well-loved oldie. Hopefully some day Hollywood producers will realize that this happens in almost all computer-animated children’s movies and that the Shrek movies were the only ones ever to do it right. Until that day comes, however, we’ll have to continue putting up with stuff like “Chicken Little.”

“Chicken Little” tells the story of a little chicken voiced by Zach Braff (“Garden State”). One day he claims that the sky is falling because a piece of it has landed on his head. His father Buck Cluck (voiced by Gary Marshall, “Orange County”) decides it was an acorn and tells the assembled townspeople so. A year later, Chicken Little has become a pariah, constantly ridiculed by the vicious and unforgiving townspeople in spite of the fact that he’s a child. Desperate to win his father’s respect, he sets about joining the local baseball team. It seems he may achieve his goal, until another piece of the sky lands on him, this time in such a way that he can not ignore it. It soon becomes apparent that there are aliens involved, and it falls to Chicken Little to save the town, though he must risk forever ruining his credibility with his father.

Zach Braff is an extremely talented comic actor. He’s so good, in fact, that he made me think the movie was funny for the first twenty minutes or so. He can milk a joke out of almost any line, which is a rare gift. This gift, unfortunately, is not shared by any of his cast-mates. The failings of the script become more apparent the more the other characters talk. The humor is limited to one-dimensional one-liners. The only running jokes are things like characters saying “Oh, snap” when they’re in danger. There are some decent visual gags in the animation, but they aren’t backed up with any funny writing.

The movie does seem to have a genuine heart, at first anyway. There are moments between Chicken Little and his father that are almost touching, but they all come near the beginning. Once the aliens show up, the film stops taking its character drama seriously and the development and resolution of these plotlines is rushed, campy, and full of puns.

“Chicken Little,” in spite of its blandness, is not completely devoid of merit. It’s extremely fast-paced and contains a full-scale alien invasion, which is a big plus in any movie. It will doubtlessly provide suitable entertainment for all but the most discerning children, but is not intelligent enough to be worthwhile for anyone over the age of 10.