Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Zachary Levi

QuickView: Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget (2023)

“Okay, everyone. It’s go time.”


British stop-motion institution Aardman Animation may be best known for Wallace & Gromit but arguably its masterpiece was 2000’s Chicken Run, an inventive homage to The Great Escape with a brood of plucky chickens attempting to flee their farm. A sequel nearly a quarter of a century later is an unexpected opportunity to return to beloved characters but risks undermining the original’s pristine reputation. Dawn of the Nugget has been a serious endeavour, not only because of the time investment inherent in stop-motion but because a tragic warehouse fire in 2005 destroyed most of Aardman’s original models, meaning everything had to be built from scratch using the Chicken Run art book as a primary reference. Director Sam Fell has the requisite pedigree, having helmed Laika’s stop-motion ParaNorman as well as Aardman’s brief foray into digital animation, Flushed Away. Chicken Run was notably female-centric, and that remains the case here as Ginger and Rocky’s daughter follows in her mother’s daring footsteps. Criticisms about significant cast changes are misplaced given the passage of time and the quality remains high, with characters taking priority over the famous names — Thandiwe Newton, Zachary Levi, Bella Ramsey — behind them. Sadly the broader canvas of the sequel is less compelling than the original’s creative take on farm life, coupled with weaker humour and an entirely predictable third act. Harry Gregson-Williams returns, unfortunately without John Powell, to supply an energetic soundtrack that expands its homage into classic spy action movies. Dawn of the Nugget is a sufficiently enjoyable romp in an underappreciated art form but despite its increase in scope, when each element feels inferior to its predecessor, it is hard not to view this newer, lesser version as redundant.


QuickView: Shazam! (2019)

Shazam! poster

“If a superhero can’t save his family, he’s not much of a hero.”

Billy Batson

DC’s struggling attempts to mirror the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have left me wanting them to shelve the shared dark and gritty Snyderverse in favour of individual movies with wildly different tones to reflect their vast stable of characters. Shazam! shines for just that reason, a self-aware exploration of how a child would respond to superpowers that has more in common with Kick-Ass or Deadpool (albeit with violence toned down for a teen rating) than any recent DC film. Zachery Levi is a perfect choice for Billy Batson’s alter ego, bringing childlike exuberance to his physical performance and drawing heavily from Tom Hanks in Big. The supervillain conflict is formulaic and the film runs out of steam by the end, but genuine humour keeps this a light-hearted entertainment experience that hopefully encourages DC to greater variety.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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