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Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget premieres on Netflix on December 15. This review is based on a screening at the 2023 BFI London Film Festival.
Over twenty years after the release of Chicken Run, the screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, along with newcomer Rachel Tunnard, reunite with Aardman Animations for the sequel titled Dawn of the Nugget. However, the absence of the original cast members in this paltry follow-up only emphasizes what made the first film so beloved.
A Bargain Bucket Sequel
The comparisons with its predecessor are inevitable, and Dawn of the Nugget feels more like a Bargain Bucket rather than a stop-motion Happy Meal. The film stretches a thin storyline to reach feature length. Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi attempt to fill the roles of Ginger and Rocky, originally voiced by Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson. However, their absence is glaringly felt, and the stakes of the film feel weak. The narrative heavily relies on formulaic obstacles for the determined teenager Molly, played by Bella Ramsey, to overcome.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget Gallery
Apart from the pedestrian plot, which revolves around the chickens attempting their own escape, Dawn of the Nugget is also packed with movie references. From nods to Mission: Impossible to throwbacks to classic Bond villains’ lairs, the film overflows with familiar cinematic elements. The stop-motion spectacle is reminiscent of Chicken Run nostalgia as the chickens utilize various contraptions to navigate a perilous fortified factory farm.
Returning Strong Performances
In spite of its flaws, Dawn of the Nugget benefits from the excellent voice work of Miranda Richardson and Jane Horrocks. Richardson breathes life back into Mrs. Tweedy, adding a sense of childlike terror alongside psychedelic visuals that give the film a unique aesthetic. On the other hand, Horrocks delivers comedic timing and solid punchlines as Babs, armed only with a pair of needles and a talented group of writers who create hilarious sight gags from her knitting.
A Missed Opportunity
Unfortunately, Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi fail to capture the chemistry that Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson brought to their roles. While the decision to recast Gibson’s role makes sense in light of his public image, replacing Sawalha feels more like a marketing strategy than a necessity. Kirkpatrick, O’Farrell, and Tunnard also fall short in terms of originality, as they merely revisit old ground instead of pushing the boundaries of the animated classic. Despite the top-tier animation quality, the inclusion of “nuggets” in the film feels unnecessary.
A Lackluster Sequel
With a thin storyline and the absence of essential characters, Dawn of the Nugget fails to live up to the original Chicken Run by playing it safe. For the sequel to impress audiences, Aardman Animations needed to take risks and offer a fresh perspective. Unfortunately, they have delivered a forgettable film that will go unnoticed on Netflix, aside from parents looking to occupy their children on a lazy Sunday afternoon.