Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget review | Poultry in motion

Egg hatching in chicken run 2
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Ginger and the gang break into a battery farm in a rock-solid sequel to the 2000 masterpiece. Here’s our Chicken Run 2 review.

Lightning, you know, never strikes twice. Aardman, apparently, even less so. Not counting its Wallace And Gromit shorts (you might have heard of them, they’re very good) Britain’s finest animation studio hasn’t got itself into the habit of making sequels.

Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget, then, is something of an odd chick. By revisiting one of the most beloved animated films of all time, Netflix and the Aardman team certainly had their work cut out for them. How do you follow up one of the best prison break movies ever made?

The answer, director Sam Fell and the team have discovered, is a simple tagline: this time, they’re breaking in.

Dawn Of The Nugget is a heist movie, a Mission: Impossible film more in the style of the 60s TV show than anything with Tom Cruise in it. Romping along with Aardman’s trademark childish wonder and with more funky gadgets and one-liners than you can toss a chicken at, Dawn might lack the tight narrative and emotional heft of the original. But as a follow-up to near-perfection, it gives honouring that legacy a ruddy good go.

Soon after the events of the first film, Rocky and Ginger are expecting an egg. Actually, they’ve already got the egg – they’re expecting a chicken. In either case, it’s not long before their new island paradise has an extra beak to feed. Following an astonishing montage of the youngster growing up, young Molly (Bella Ramsey) is 11 chicken-years old and hungry for adventure.

It’s not just the spring chicken that’s changed, though. On the mainland, Mrs Tweedy, ironically, is up to something. Together with her latest husband, Nick Mohammed’s diminutive Dr Fry, she’s revolutionised chicken farming with a spot of dastardly science and a new menu item fast food chains the world over would be eyeing with interest. It’s the 60s, baby, and the 60s brings nuggets.

Molly, ever a chip off the old block, spots one of Mrs Tweedy’s trucks and decides to see where it’s going. Together with newcomer Frizzle, she winds up on the wrong side of a “Gerry Anderson designs James Bond” style villainous lair – and it’s up to Ginger, Rocky, Babs and the gang to get her out. Hell hath no fury like a chicken scorned.

As far as sequel premises go, it’s a good one, and the team at Aardman clearly delights in mining it for every inch of 60s, chicken-based comedy it can find. Tweedy’s farm is guarded by laser guided ducks and exploding moles. The soundtrack is packed with delightfully British classics like Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday. This is Aardman through and through, and though Dawn Of The Nugget might be the studio’s first sequel, the film in many ways stands up as a cheerfully entertaining story in its own right.

Listen: Podcast | In conversation with Nick Park – Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run, Aardman, Early Man and lots more

That’s not to say there aren’t a couple of rough edges. Though Chicken Run 2 is consistently funny, it’s rarely hilarious, and there’s a slight sense that the Mission: Impossible heist movie formula doesn’t translate quite as well into the chicken-verse as the prison break film did before it.

But still, of all the world’s studios, it’s easy to forgive Aardman for its flaws. The Bristol-based company has ruled the stop motion roost for more than 30 years now, and for good reason – even when Dawn Of The Nugget isn’t quite firing on all cylinders, there’s still more heart, more attention to detail and more imagination in every frame than most studio pictures manage in their entire runtime. Chicken Run 2 might just be the second great Mission: Impossible movie of 2023. And if that sentence doesn’t make you smile, it’s hard to imagine what will.

Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget was shown at the BFI London Film Festival 2023, and arrives on Netflix on 15 December.

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