Capsule Review: Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (2023)

“I say, last time, we broke out of a chicken farm. Well, this time, we’re breaking in.”

So, in the long-awaited sequel to 2000’s Chicken Run, it’s mission chicken impossible for Ginger (voiced by Thandiwe Newton) and the rest of the chickens including her husband, Rocky (Zachary Levi) as they attempt to save their daughter Molly (Bella Ramsey).

Don’t worry if you forgot what happened in the first movie twenty-three years ago since director Sam Fell of Flushed Away and ParaNorman fame opens with a brief recap to jog your memory. We learn that after the events of the first movie, Ginger, Rocky and the chicken population from their former owner Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) have since lived in harmony on a remote island. Ginger and Rocky finally have their first child and named her Molly.

After growing up, Molly has always been curious about what lies beyond the island. But the overprotective Ginger is doing whatever she can to make sure her daughter remains on the island at all costs. Of course, it doesn’t take long before Molly escapes the island and stumbles upon a teenage chick named Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies).

Frizzle is looking forward to joining the rest of the chickens on the way to a happy paradise called Fun-Land Farms. Once there, the facility that resembles a high-tech, maximum-security Bond villain-like base houses a colourful playground, where it’s all sunshine and rainbows. However, the so-called paradise Molly and Frizzle are hoping for, turns out to be something else entirely.

Meanwhile, after learning about Molly being held captive inside the facility, Ginger and Rocky hatch (no pun intended) a plan to rescue their daughter.

It’s a pity that Julia Sawalha and Mel Gibson, who voiced the original lead roles of Ginger and Rocky in the 2020 original, were replaced by Thandiwe Newton and Zachary Levi instead. The current voice cast is an okay choice, even though there’s a nagging feeling about not hearing from Sawalha and Gibson voicing their roles because they were among the best things that made Chicken Run such a beloved animation hit. The new addition, Molly voiced by Bella Ramsey is essentially a younger version of Ginger — all feisty and persistent but it would be great if Fell alongside screenwriters Karey Kirkpatrick, John O’Farrell and Rachel Tunnard spent considerable time developing her character arc.

The story, in the meantime, is more or less the same with a few tweaks here and there. The first movie successfully pulled off a Great Escape-like plot and loaded it with stop-motion charm and quirky British humour. The sequel follows the template of a Mission: Impossible movie (and yes, it even comes with a cheeky in-joke related to that popular franchise) with a dash of The Stepford Wives and The Truman Show.

The result? Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget may suffer from sequelitis syndrome and the kind of bigger-but-not-necessarily-better filmmaking approach. But it’s fun while it lasts with excellent visual details that seamlessly combine with stop-motion animation and CGI. The elaborate action set pieces, particularly during the second half of the movie, are exhilarating enough to keep you occupied.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget is currently streaming on Netflix.