Welcome to our Is Cinema series. We spotlight films that receive far from universal approval. Despite mixed feedback, they refuse to fade away by holding a unique spot within pop culture. This chapter is on Chicken Little.
It is fairly safe to say that we all know what goes into great cinema. Films that capture our imaginations and remind us why it is our greatest creative medium- endlessly evolving and entertaining to each and every person who sits down to enjoy film. Cinema has the power to move us, to change the way we think about the world and even ourselves. It has pushed the ideologies of entire nations and in many ways changed history.
This is where Chicken Little comes into play.
Chicken Little was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2005 to wide critical disdain. Although, pretty great box office receipts would indicate decent audience approval if nothing overly special (Madagascar pulled ahead of it that year at the box office). At the time, I found it to be pretty silly and fun- but not even close in quality to some of the other kid flicks around. Which then begs the question as to why I still think about it and see others talking about it as well?
It is a well and truly terrible film with awkward animation, odd character designs, unfunny humor, and pretty unfocused messages that almost certainly did not connect with young audiences. Yet, people still talk about and reference it constantly. It is not a cult film in the sense that it was misunderstood by critics upon release as it really was not. It did not slip under the radar in theaters for it made five times its production budget. It is simply a poor film that people who grew up with it have nostalgia for. I have to wonder then, is there value in Chicken Little?
Is there value in these bad, often disposable, children films that are insufferable to parents and momentarily enjoyable to young viewers? Children movies can, and many do, transcend their status and stand out as brilliant and entertaining for people of all ages. Many others, however, are undeniably lazy cash grabs or effortless bores meant to be mildly diverting and nothing else. Think of something like 2016’s Norm of the North, a film that feels as if it was assembled in a factory and dropped several times on its way to your local five dollar bin at Walmart. It is bad and I would be shocked even if kids like it- but that is exactly the thing.
I am certain there are kids who do love it. Somewhere, some kid is watching Norm of the North right now and they think it is truly the greatest film ever made. I wonder then, who am I to say otherwise? What is a film but the connection it makes with the single person experiencing it at that moment? We can endlessly evaluate the various ways a film can fail on a storytelling and filmmaking level, but if it connects, then it connects.
There really is value in all cinema and each and every film ever made, no matter how good or bad. Almost every single film means something to someone somewhere. So when we argue about these films and try to decide what is good or bad while ranking our favorites and least favorites, reveling in the chaos of the artform and the opinions it creates- it is important to remember… Chicken Little is cinema.