Dawn of the Nugget Is A Very Generic Sequel Film
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is inescapably a nostalgia grab of a movie, relying on people like me and our fond memories of the original film. If it weren’t for that history, I’m not sure it would’ve been that big of a deal for there to be a new kid’s movie about chickens attempting to escape being eaten. There was some sort of Thanksgiving movie a few years back that I didn’t care about or watch with a similar plot, and if you were in a bad mood, Dawn of the Nugget could be considered of the same ilk. Further, Dawn of the Nugget’s plot basically writes itself, utilizing a very standard Hollywood structure with little in the way of subversion or surprises. The main characters have a rebellious teenage daughter who kickstarts a very similar plot to the first movie. It’s Ghostbusters: Afterlife. It’s The Matrix: Resurrections. I called the ending within the first half-hour or so.
That said, there are several things that set it apart on a tonal and technical side from other movies. Some of which—if hazy memories serve—were present in the first film. Qualities that are probably the reason the now-franchise was immortalized into the collective memory in the first place.
The Movie Does Indeed Scratch The Nostalgic Itch
Because I’m Mr. Horror Fan, it’s probably not a surprise that the morbid subject matter was what stuck with me from the first—and it’s definitely still here. The first has an only slightly off-screen death that proceeds into seeing someone eating a character’s corpse. I was a child when I saw that scene. And this time having the death be a little more machine-based doesn’t much diminish how bleak the setting is. For every chicken we see saved through wacky hijinks, there are hundreds of thousands of others who are imprisoned and await slaughter. Dawn of the Nugget even manages to evoke a solid—if not heavily explored—science fiction horror dystopian scenario while still mostly justifying it within the confines of the expected Chicken Run plot. Though I am, at present, neither vegan nor vegetarian, this movie is so overtly making arguments against factory farming or even the consumption of meat in general that it might convert a few people. I have a hard time imagining that between this and the first film, there wasn’t someone, somewhere, trying to lambast the meat industry.
Dawn of the Nugget Is Thoroughly Pro-Vegetarian
The other thing that carried over that any low-effort kid’s movies could never match is the wonderful, vibrant, and charming Claymation of Aardman Animations. From my reviews of Wendell & Wild to The Nightmare Before Christmas, I’ve made clear that stop motion, or any of its offshoots, instantly elevates any piece of media for me. The amount of time, effort, and skill that goes into creating anything in this art form means that real love and care are intrinsic to any finished product. The fact that Dawn of the Nugget goes a step further and uses interesting scene transitions and camera tricks only proves my point. I marveled at how they accomplished this fluid of motion and this dynamic of action scenes within those technical confines. It would not surprise me if some level of CGI trickery was used to enhance it, but even if so, it didn’t diminish the splendor.
It’s Still Amazing This Animation Is Done With Clay
As to the complaints that I haven’t already sprinkled through this review like passive-aggressive barbs, the main issues intermingle with otherwise fine moments. Basically, the comedy is a little scattershot, and the plot relies almost exclusively on coincidences and convenient timing. I was mostly willing to ignore/go with a lot of it because Dawn of the Nugget makes it clear early on that physics, timing, and human reaction time to head trauma are totally at the whims of the plot. But there’s also very little tension as a result. And even that would be fine if the jokes were bangers, if this movie was meant to be wall-to-wall silliness, but it’s not that. Sometimes, I did get a good chuckle. There’s a gag with an eye scanner that might be one of the funniest visual jokes I’ve seen in a movie. But there are also a lot of jokes that rely on having an elderly character get beaten up, make fun of one of the chicken’s weight, or demean several characters’ intelligence. This is a dystopian heist movie revolving around chickens using mainly random objects to infiltrate an absurd spy lair and defeat comically evil humans—I don’t know why there are not more absolute shenanigans going on.
I don’t want to make it sound like I disliked this movie—I didn’t. I just can see the potential for such a better movie hidden among its scenes. Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is an easy watch, certainly, with solid enough pacing and several standout moments, but if it wasn’t for its history, if it wasn’t for its animation, it wouldn’t have even gotten a review. If you have fond memories of the first movie, by all means, give it a watch—but don’t expect something that special.
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