Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget just had its world premiere at the BFI Film Festival in London, and fortunately, some affordable seats were still available a few months ago. As a result, here are my thoughts ahead of its December 2023 release.
Releasing 23 years after the original in 2000, Dawn of the Nugget picks up from roughly where the original left off. Following their daring escape from Tweedy’s farm, they’ve settled on a remote island free from pesky human interference. Ginger and Rocky are still together and have a child who grows up with just as much curiosity as her mother. That morbid curiosity gets her into trouble, leading to a daring heist involving all our favorites from the original.
Ahead of the movie, one of the founders of Aardman said that comedy is in their DNA, and that was really prevalent throughout, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments enjoyed by myself and those around me. Fowler’s interaction with a rather disinterested snail who couldn’t escape the ramblings of his escapades from his former RAF days was a personal highlight. That’s not to mention that Babs, voiced by Jane Horrocks, was the true MVP of the movie, however, with almost every quip landing a laugh.
The voicecast has been mostly refreshed for this outing for various reasons. Miranda Richardson’s return to voice Mrs. Tweedy must’ve been like getting back on a bike, as her performance was exceptional, even if her character did feel a little less sinister than the first. As for the newcomers, the majority of them settled into their new roles effortlessly, but a few exceptions stood out for me, especially since I had just rewatched the first movie.
Rocky was the standout here, with Zachary Levi noticeably lacking the punch of Mel Gibson’s performance from twenty years ago. It’s not that his character wasn’t effective; he delivered some excellent laugh-out-loud moments, but there was just something lost in the performance. That’s just one example, but a few other characters felt like they weren’t quite right.
As for the animation itself, it’s sublime, as you’d come to expect from Aardman, who seems free to experiment and have absolute confidence in any scene they have to tackle. It’s a joy to occasionally see one of the animator’s thumbprints embedded in the characters’ faces, and the attention to detail is superb. The sequel is much more colorful than the original, with one section of the movie reminiscent of the Barbieland reveal from the box office smash earlier in the year.
The movie hits on some deeper themes, whether that’s greedy capitalism or the way farming is conducted, but it’s never the film’s sole focus and never outstays its welcome.
While we have no doubt the argument and question will be rolled out about whether this movie would’ve been a hit at the box office, it cannot be denied that through Netflix, Aardman has been allowed to be at the top of their game with this movie.
“The bar was set so high that I just knew we had to come up with something at least as great on its own terms,” director Sam Fell said before the movie opened after all these years. As a fan of the original, I’m happy to report that the bar looks to be cleared and then some.
Roll on Aardman’s next big Netflix project coming in 2024: Wallace & Gromit.
Numerous Netflix movies have made their premiere or have been showcased at the BFI Film Festival this year, including The Killer from David Fincher and The Kitchen, like Dawn of the Nugget, making its World Premiere on October 15th.
Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget arrives on Netflix globally on December 15th, 2023. It’ll also play in select theaters in December – details TBA.