Jamie Skinner reviews the lastest; Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget, but what did he think?

Release date: 8th December, Cert- PG, Run-time - 1 hours 38 minutes, Director - Sam Fell

When their daughter (Bella Ramsey) runs away to a chicken haven Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (Zachary Levi) form a group to break in before something sinister is revealed.

The concept for Chicken Run is simple: The Great Escape with chickens. Throw in some very clever jokes and one of the greatest villains to grace the silver screen and you’ve got a mix for a rightfully highly-regarded film. Aardman’s first feature showed them as they meant to go on, working best when tinkering with genre elements to create distinct stop-motion homages. As horror (particularly Hammer Horror) flicks were in Wallace And Gromit: The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit and sci-fi classics in underrated gem A Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.

With the simple idea of breaking back in, something of a heist film, sequel Dawn Of The Nugget comes as something of a surprise, in feeling rather generic for the British studio. Even the animation doesn’t have the same effect. Instead of multiple shots leaving you wondering how they were achieved in the stop-motion format only really one has this impact here.

There’s still some top quality gags and wordplay - newspapers which read “police suspect fowl play” - and an excellent use of Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday as Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (Zachary Levi) assemble a team of escapees from Tweedy’s farm to break into what’s billed as a chicken haven. Their daughter Molly (Bella Ramsey) has run away there seeking a life of freedom, not suspecting something more sinister behind the doors.

As Molly and new friend Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies) grow wary of the Barbieland for chickens they’re in the other characters are split up across the building. We jump back and forth between the main team led by Ginger, Rocky and rats Nick (Romesh Ranganathan) and Fetcher (Daniel Mays) crawling through the vents and the villains of the piece - tech-whiz Dr Fry (Nick Mohammed - seemingly having great fun being in an Aardman feature), and the once-terrifying Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson). With the film going from place to place it often feels like much of it is simply a build-up to get it to the main content of the third act.

It’s the third act where not only the underused Mrs Tweedy gets most to do but the film as a whole feels closest to the original. The best stuff, properly showing the creativity and spark, comes into play as Dawn Of The Nugget finally finds its stride. A stride which brings about a sense of joy at simply watching the film pick up pace and relax now everything is finally set up.

It’s just a shame that there’s something of a long journey to get there. Yes, there are some good gags along the way with an overall likable nature, but things feel held back by simply feel rather safe for an Aardman feature. But, with those rises every now and then, and the third act, there are still enough reminders throughout as to just why the passionate studio are considered masters in their craft.

Jamie Skinner, three stars ***