Film Review – Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget

For those that came of age in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, Chicken Run (2000) stands alongside other beloved Aardman Studio productions as an entertaining and thoughtful stop motion adventure. Combining a childlike charm with an adult-style wit, the film worked on several different levels. How many family friendly pictures can teach kids about self-reliance while borrowing the plot structure of The Great Escape (1963)? That odd combination is partly the reason it endeared with fans for over two decades. With the release of its sequel – Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (2023) – comes a boatload of expectations. Does this latest entry live up to the standard that was created by the original? The answer is: Yes and no.

In terms of animation, the production translates the style of the first entry with ease. As is the case for many modern animation, this one ratchets up the energy to create a breathless pace. Aardman has been in the stop motion game for a long time now, and at this point the technical craft is unequaled. From the camera movements, character expressions, world design, editing, and visual effects, everything feels smooth and alive. This is a more colorful outing than the first installment. Where the original is set in the gloomy confines of a chicken farm, this one explores a much larger canvas.


But does a bigger and more brightly colored setting make Dawn of the Nugget a success? Not necessarily. Director Sam Fell (with screenwriters Karey KirkpatrickJohn O’Farrell, and Rachel Tunnard) craft a well enough romp, filling it with plenty of jokes and hijinks. However, the character work takes a big hit, moving to the side to make way for a plot-heavy narrative where everyone must be doing something all the time. Where the first took breaks to develop motivations, this one jumps into the action almost immediately and doesn’t stop until the end credits. As a result, we are left with surface level character depth. 

When we meet up with our merry band of chickens, they have settled comfortably within the confines of their island home away from humans. Rocky (Zachary Levi) and Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) have adjusted to domesticity raising their daughter Molly (Bella Ramsey). Like Ginger, Molly has a rebellious spirit and yearns for freedom. In an effort to see the world on her own, Molly ignores the warnings of her parents and leaves the island. Unfortunately, this decision lands her smack dab inside of a factory, where chickens are overfed and processed to become – you guessed it – fried nuggets. The story then shifts into a rescue mission, where Rocky, Ginger, and returning friends Bunty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson), Fowler (David Bradley), Babs (Jane Horrocks), Nick (Romesh Ranganathan), and Fetcher (Daniel Mays) must find Molly, save the other chickens, and shut down the plant.

There is a stark difference in textures from the original film to the sequel. The intimate, makeshift environments of the chicken huts are replaced with large, sterile, concrete hallways and mechanical doors. The “prison camp” aesthetics of the first have transitioned to a Willy Wonka/mad scientist like laboratory. This is best exemplified in the main holding area, which has been painted over and dressed as though it were a poultry playland. There are rides, swings, slides, plenty of birdfeed, and lots of bright lights to give the illusion of safety and coziness. Of course, we all know that this is a ruse for something far more sinister. As a precaution, the chickens are fitted with collars that turn them into subservient, mindless zombies. Of all the new places we visit, this is the most interesting. It presents itself one way but clearly operates with a devilish purpose. 


Dawn of the Nugget does everything required to accomplish its goals. The voice acting is fine, the story is fine, the comedy and action are fine – everything about it is fine. There’s nothing egregious that would turn off most audience members. But is “fine” good enough when it comes to Chicken Run? I’ve made a lot of comparisons to the first film in this review, because it is held in such high regard by so many viewers. It adhered to a wide demographic yet contained the ambition to take some bold artistic risks. This one is much safer, more by the numbers. Despite excellent animation, the ideas are just not as interesting. At its worst, the production leaned too heavily into the nostalgia factor, dipping back in the well hoping to get the same result. The central villain – whom I will not name – is the weakest link, because it is a retread of what was done before, only this time with a lesser outcome.

Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget may not reach the heights of its predecessor, but it does contain enough good stuff to fill up a few hours. Does it have the same kind of appeal people will fondly look back at decades from now? I have my doubts, but that’s ok. Sometimes, pure escapism is all that’s needed.




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

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