Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget – Movie Review

Posted by Eddie Pasa on December 15, 2023 in / No Comments


It’s been 23 years since the original Chicken Run turned into the sleeper hit of 2000, endearing itself to children and adults alike with quick wit and Aardman’s exceptional stop-motion and clay animation. Now, we have an update on how Ginger (Thandiwe Newton), Rocky (Zachary Levi), and the rest of the chickens from the Tweedy Farm have been faring with Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget. Its title suggests a plot about turning our beloved characters into the world’s favorite snack (come on – excepting those who don’t partake, who doesn’t love a chicken nugget?), but there’s more to the title than we think.

This new sequel carries on the original’s spirit of family and togetherness while still maintaining a healthy mixture of dread and adventure. While the bulk of it doesn’t stray far from the original’s blueprint, there’s more than enough here to keep things fresh and rolling, familiar plot notwithstanding. New voices have joined returning cast members; some have been replaced, notably the lead duo of Ginger and Rocky. The younger-sounding Levi adds his usual frenzied stylings, a stark contrast to Mel Gibson’s grizzled and more experienced tones. As far as Ginger goes, Newton and Julie Sawalha (formerly in the role) seem an even exchange, but Newton gives Ginger a bit more wariness and distrust; there are shadings Newton applies that dimensionalize Ginger past being just the leader of her fellow farm escapees.

Most of it has to do with Ginger’s new role as mother to Molly (Bella Ramsey), their child who’s only known the safety of their hiding place and her parents’ overbearing protection. She does what any teenager frustrated with their lives does – she acts out, pushing boundaries and eventually spilling over into dangerous territory. This time, though, her sense of independence brings her straight to Fun-Land Farms, advertised on billboards and trucks as a haven for chickens, but she doesn’t understand what the weird bucket on the signs represents. Fellow traveler Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies), another hen she meets on the road with whom she forms a fast friendship, doesn’t seem to either, but when they get to Fun-Land, it’s just as wonderful as they think, with no worries and lots to play with and do.

Of course, it’s too good to be true, evinced as Molly and Frizzle get to Fun-Land’s entrance, which features NORAD-style military security personnel and deadly anti-intrusion measures. Even worse, the chicken haven is not a haven at all, as Molly finds out; the other inhabitants are way too placid, kept in a waking stupor by electronically controlled collars. When the villains and their purposes are revealed shortly after, it becomes Molly’s fight for survival, not sure if her parents will come to save her… which Ginger is already planning to do, aided by Rocky, superbrain Mac (Lynn Ferguson), ditzy Babs (Jane Horrocks), the always-suspicious Bunty (Imelda Staunton), military veteran Fowler (David Bradley), and rat pair Nick (Romesh Ranganathan) and Fetcher (Daniel Mays).

This setup may sound familiar, as Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is, quite frankly, a feature-length expansion of one of Chicken Run’s key sequences, in which Rocky saves Ginger from Mrs. Tweedy’s (Miranda Richardson) terrifying machine which processes chicken faster than you can say “cluck.” But it’s a welcome expansion, showing off new sides to Ginger and Rocky while making room for Molly, who’s learning to deal with her own mistakes in her adolescence. It also improves upon the first as an action movie, with chase sequences and escape maneuvers that provide genuine tension, thrills, and laughs. For all the exaggeration, we’re still in it to enjoy watching chickens outsmart humans in alternately dumb and genius ways.

The titular nugget doesn’t only refer to the popular foodstuff; it’s a suitable description of how we see Molly step up to save herself, her new friend, and her family. Voiced by Bella Ramsey, Molly is established as having the best of her parents – her father’s go-get-’em bravado and her mother’s smarts. Known for their turns in the HBO series “Game of Thrones” and “The Last of Us,” Ramsey gifts Molly a blend of naivete and decisiveness, emoted with natural presence and nuance that keeps us bound to Molly through each phase of her journey.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget retains the original’s warm heart and good intentions while pointing out some of our own human folly as well. Maybe it’s because I became a parent in the interim between these films, but the competing stories of parenthood and teenage angst are combined beautifully and have a greater pull on me than its The Great Escape-esque predecessor. There’s simply more life, action, expression, and love to go around. Characters are given more to do than just be arch, stock players; in the effort to save Molly, we see a true family brought together from disparate corners to protect their own and to make their own hilarious and daring way out of trouble.

Rated PG by the MPA for peril, action, and some thematic elements. Running time: 98 minutes. Released by Netflix.

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Eddie Pasa

Eddie is a member of the Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA) and the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS). Since starting in 2010 at The Rogers Revue, Eddie has written for Reel Film News (now defunct), co-founded DC Filmdom, and writes occasionally for Gunaxin. When not reviewing movies, he's spending time with his wife and children, repeat-viewing favorites on Blu-Ray, working for rebranding agency Mekanic, or playing acoustic shows and DJing across the DC/MD/VA area. Special thanks go to Jenn Carlson, Moira and Ari Pasa, Viki Nova at City Dock Digital in Annapolis, Mike Parsons, Philip Van Der Vossen, and Dean Rogers.

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