Monday, November 07, 2005

'Chicken Little,' 'Boomerang' and 'Howl's Moving Castle'

Animated Discussions
By Rudy Panucci and Melanie Larch

REVIEW: CHICKEN LITTLE
Directed by Mark Dindal
Featuring the voices of Zach Braff, Amy Sedaris, and Joan Cusack

Disney's Chicken Little is the studio's attempt to replace Pixar, the computer animation house that gave us Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles. While nowhere near Pixar in terms of quality, "Chicken Little" is still a solid effort that follows the successful formula: computer animation+heart tugging family rift + pop culture references = hit movie.

Chicken Little tells the famous children's story of the chicken who thought the sky was falling, only this time, there's a twist. It turns out the sky really is falling, but nobody believes him. The event is filtered through the prism of mass media exploitation. Actually, it turns out the sky is not really falling--it's an alien invasion. But you get the picture.

Chicken Little is a very fast paced, action filled movie with some terrific gags and even though the "heart tugging family issues" seem a little artificial and tacked on, they don't detract from a film that is good, light entertainment.

The voice cast is, to be honest, just a tad better than the material. Zach Braff (Scrubs) infuses Chicken Little with a voice that's a decent approximation of a teenage Wally Cox. Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy) is wonderfully obnoxious as Foxy Loxy. While a big deal was made of Don Knotts' role as Mayor Jerky Turkey, he actually has fewer lines than Adam West does in a surprise cameo. Fans of cheesy '70's music will be in hog heaven as Chicken Little's porky sidekick, Runt(Steve Zahn), tends to break out with the playlist from an oldies soft rock radio station when he gets nervous. Though he doesn't really speak, Fish (Out of Water) does as pretty good job of channeling Harpo Marx, and is responsible for some of the best moments of the movie.

Kids will love this film, despite the fact that it's pure formula. Unlike last year's dismal Shark's Tale, this is formula moviemaking in the hands of people who know what they're doing. Adults will also get a kick out of the film, with all the dated musical references and some very clever gags, although very picky people might recognize that some of them are recycled from other sources. Chicken Little is no home run, but it's a solid triple. And that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Grade: B

FINALLY: BOOMERANG HITS TOWN!

After six years of begging, pleading, threatening, and then the quiet resignation that Charter must hate us, Charleston finally has the Boomerang Channel! Very quietly, with no fanfare or anything, Charter (the dominant cable provider in this area) added Boomerang on November 1st. It's right there on Channel 111 on the digital tier, next to the Gospel music channel. Of course, the Gospel Music Channel gets a full page ad in Showtime, but they just chucked Boomerang out there with no warning, like they did with Logo back in June, almost like they were ashamed of it. We can't imagine why, since we've been told repeatedly that Boomerang has been the most requested channel at Charter Communications for several years running. But hey, we get it now and that's all that matters. In case you don't know, Boomerang is the commercial free sister channel to the Cartoon Network. They show the classic Warner Brothers, MGM, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons and they've recently added the more recent but still excellent Superman and Batman series from the 1990's. This is the only place where you can see the Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, The Flintstones and The Jetsons on a regular basis. Thank you very much, Charter! It's about freakin' time!

HOWL AT THE FILM FESTIVAL

This Saturday at 3:00 PM, the West Virginia International Film Festival brings us the only Charleston showing of Hayao Mayazaki's latest masterpiece, Howl's Moving Castle. This PG-rated anime feature celebrates the power of love to transform and the resiliency of the human spirit in the face of adversity. When Sophie, a young woman, is cursed with an old body by a spiteful witch, her only chance of breaking the spell lies with a self-indulgent, mysterious young wizard named Howl. Embarking on an incredible odyssey to lift the curse, Sophie finds refuge in Howl's magical moving castle. Her love and support has a major impact on the wizard.

Catching Howl at the Film Festival this Saturday will be a great prelude to the Mayazaki film festival which will air on Turner Classic Movies in January. You can read more about it here.

Unfortunately, family commitments are going to prevent us from attending this Saturday's showing. It's a shame that a film of this stature gets relegated to a Saturday matinee during the Festival. It would be nice if more people would come out and support the Film Festival so that they could schedule more showings of some of the films.

For more information on the Film Festival and directions to the WVSU Capitol Center Theatre, check out their website here.

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