Friday, January 6, 2012

Chicken Little 3D / 2D Blu-ray Review

All systems are go for fun, action and adventure as Chicken Little soars off the screen and into your living room in Disney 3D!  When the sky really is falling and sanity has flown the coop, who will rise to save the day?  Together with his hysterical band of misfit friends, Chicken Little must save the planet from an alien invasion and prove that the world’s biggest hero is a little chicken.  Experience the 3D Combo Pack with three different ways to watch the movie: Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray and DVD.  For out-of-this-world entertainment, the sky’s the limit with Disney Blu-ray 3D!

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

In the small town of Oakey Oaks, there is a small chicken named Chicken Little (Zach Braff) who lives in shame due to his public embarrassment after terrifying the townspeople with his claims that the sky was falling.  He tells everyone that a piece of the sky shaped like a stop sign dropped on his head but he’s unable to produce it to the embarrassment of his father Buck (Garry Marshall).  His father proclaims that his son was just hit by an acorn in an attempt to convince Mayor Lurkey (the late great Don Knotts) and the townspeople that his son isn’t crazy.  It makes no difference as Chicken Little becomes the laughingstock of the town from there on.
A year passes and his reputation hasn’t improved at all.  He has no friends except for a group of other outcasts much like himself including Abby Mallard (also known as the Ugly Duckling), Fish out of Water (he wears a helmet full of water), and Runt of the Litter (a large pig played by Steve Zahn who is still the smallest of his family).  Little is closest to Abby (Joan Cusack) who happens to have a crush on him and she’s always giving him advice to talk to his father about how he feels.  Little and his father have a hard time communicating since things have been uncomfortable between them since “the incident.”  The loss of Little’s mother has also put a strain on their relationship since Buck can no longer relate with his son.
Trying to impress his father, Little joins his school’s baseball team much to his father’s dismay of the possibility of being embarrassed again, and to the amusement of his classmates who tease him mercilessly.  He spends his time benched since the coach doesn’t want to use him.  It isn’t until the last game that Little is finally called to bat since the Coach has little choice due to circumstances.  Much to every-one’s surprise, Little not only lands a solid hit, but he also manages to win the game and the pennant for the team.  With that win, his reputation is restored and he’s the hero of the town and best of all, his father is finally proud of him.
Things seem to be finally going well for him again, which makes the fact that he’s hit in the head by a piece of the sky again even more disturbing.  He knows that if he starts telling people that the sky is falling his hard-won respect will disappear once again so he tries to keep it under wraps from his father.  He discovers that the piece of sky is actually a device shaped like a stop sign like he asserted long ago, and that it’s a device of some kind that blends into whatever background it’s placed on which is why he couldn’t find it the first time.  He calls his buddies over to check it out and to prove that he isn’t crazy.
Fish accidentally discovers that a button on the device makes it fly and they learn that it’s a panel off an invisible UFO.  Little runs back to the bell-tower to warn everyone but by the time the townspeople arrive, they aliens have disappeared and activated their cloaking device that camouflages them from being seen.  Once again, Little is made to look crazy and not even his father believes him.  All of the goodwill that Little briefly had evaporates once again and not even his friends confirmation of his story convinces Buck or anyone else.  While walking away dejectedly, Little finds a little orange alien who later turns out to be a child of the visiting aliens.  When the alien parents learn that their child is missing and believe that he was abducted, they make their ships visible and start destroying the town.  It’s left up to Little and his misfit friends to save the town and all of it’s inhabitants.
This is a fun but quirky movie that seems an odd fit for Disney and it’s definitely not a Pixar movie. This was the first CGI movie that Disney did without Pixar back when the two sides couldn’t agree on a new deal between them.  In fact, both sides were waiting to see how this movie did before resuming their talks.  If the movie did well, then Disney would have had the upper hand in negotiations and if it failed, then Pixar could have pointed out how much they were needed.  Chicken Little did pretty well at the box office (and much better than other Disney efforts at the time) but at the same time, it didn’t do Pixar business.  Eventually, Micheal Eisner left and Bob Iger bought Pixar and it was all settled but there’s still reminders of that era like this movie.
The cast all does a nice job, but the movie isn’t very original and it seems very disjointed with multiple plot threads that are all kind of jumbled together like the filmmakers were trying to cover too much ground.  There’s the outcast angle for Little and his friends, then the estrangement between Little and his father, and then an alien invasion plot-line jammed in at the end.  There’s some funny parts and I liked the movie overall as did my son, but this isn’t one of Disney’s better movies but it’s still enjoyable.

Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

3D Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

In the last two weeks, I’ve reviewed six other Disney 3D Blu-rays and have been wowed and impressed by all of them and gave each of them high scores.  I’m not sure what happened for Chicken Little, but that impressive track record is ended by this movie.  This 1080p (1.78:1) 3D transfer is filled with ghosting issues from the start of the film until the end and I’m at a loss to understand why.  The movie was made for 3D and was released theatrically in 3D, and given the track record of Disney’s superlative 3D releases, I was sure that this would be another perfect release, but sadly that’s not the case.  It’s a shame, because some of the sequences such as the ending invasion attack look great in 3D and add quite a bit to the movie.  Unfortunately, the excessive ghosting present for most of the movie’s running time drags down the good bits that are there.  On a more positive note, both versions offer a nicely detailed picture, brilliant colors, and fantastic textures.  The black levels are pretty good but not as dark and solid as they usually are for Disney’s releases.  I’m willing to overlook this release’s 3D quality out of respect to Disney’s industry leading effort to bring quality 3D releases to the public.  This movie probably wouldn’t stand out so much if all of the other Disney releases didn’t look so darn good all the time.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

Chicken Little‘s 3D version sports a DTS-HS Master Audio 5.1 mix while the 2D edition has the same uncompressed LPCM 5.1 mix that was present on the original Blu-ray release.  Both sound fairly good but once again, they are not up to Disney’s usual high standards.  Dialogue is clear even when there’s a ton of stuff going on like during the alien invasion and the the surround channels are all used pretty well.  This mix is a little unbalanced though since for the first half of the movie, the effects seem lower than the score by John Debney but come back to the forefront in the third act of the movie.  The surround channels are pretty active and offer some good directionality, and the way the songs like R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (and I Feel Fine),” all sound great and alive.  Overall, this is a a pretty good mix but the weird imbalance of sound levels brings down the final score.

Special Features (3 out of 5 stars) 

Here is another area that Disney usually does very well in but once again, this release fails to deliver substantial extras.
  • Audio Commentary - Director Mark Dindal, producer Randy Fuller and visual effects supervisor Steve Goldberg talk about the movie’s production and the challenges and changes that were made to make the film.  They are honest and forthcoming about it all and it was interesting to see the reasons why this movie seems out of place for a Disney title.
  • Filmmaker Q&A – There’s also another way to hear the filmmakers’ thoughts with this Q&A section which has predetermined questions that you can can select to hear their responses.  While it’s a good idea, this doesn’t work that well as it’s harder than necessary to select the questions through the interface and then it takes too long to load the answers.
  • Deleted Scenes - There’s a total of twenty three minutes of deleted scenes including: two alternate openings, plus the “Chicken Little Storybook,” “Cooking With Klaus,” “Original Opening With Chicken Little As A Girl,” ”Mayor Lurkey’s Pep Talk,” “Buck’s Apology,” “Something Must Be Done” and “Lunch Room B,” and more scenes will that are a mix of  early and unfinished versions.  Some of them are cute and fans should enjoy them.  I’m always up for some more Don Knotts.
  • Hatching Chicken Little – An eighteen minute five-part behind the scenes look at the making of the movie with some of the cast and crew.  This is mostly covered by Director Mark Dindal and producer Randy Fullmer who talk about making the movie along with clips and early concept footage.
  • Alien Invasion – Space Invaders themed game that is set to the world of Chicken Little.
  • Music Videos – I’m not sure who enjoys these music videos, but this disc offers “Shake Your Tail Feather” by the Cheetah Girls and “One Little Slip” by the Barenaked Ladies.  You can also  sing along with “One Little Slip,” if you really want to.
  • Easter Eggs – There’s two easter eggs that aren’t even hidden as they are listed right on the special features menu which kind of defeats the point of them.

Final Thoughts (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Chicken Little is a fun and quirky little movie that has a good heart and a nice message, but it tries to squeeze in too many plot-lines and messages at once.  The cast is great in their roles and it’s an enjoyable movie but it’s not one that is easily forgotten after viewing.  Despite Disney’s stellar track record for their 3D releases, they stumbled with this release and it reach their usual perfect standards.  The ghosting problem notwithstanding, there are some nice 3D moments in the movie that give us a glimpse of what might have been if it had been done right.  The 2D version looks amazing though, and I can highly recommend that!
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