I’ve mentioned before in the review for Chicken Run that British animation company Aardman do enjoy filling their films with parodies, puns and homages, with this picture proving no exception. From faithful pooch Gromit having a degree from Dogwarts university, power tools made by Botch and scenes stolen from the likes of King Kong and An American Werewolf in London, the gags come thick and fast, unashamedly crowbarring in references to other rabbit-related movies (a shop called Harvey’s, Bright Eyes playing on the radio).
However, endless jokes are not enough, as the predictable (if enjoyably surreal) story of a man (Wallace, voiced as ever by the dependable Peter Sallis) and a rabbit swapping physicalities and personality traits after a bout of brainwashing goes wrong leaves too many loose ends and plays plot points signposted in neon letters as twists and shock reveals. A game British cast (Helena Bonham Carter as vegetable mimicking Lady Tottington, Ralph Fiennes as the blunderbuss wielding diminutive Victor) are solid, but not quite enough to warrant repeat viewings.
The Great Escape, with chickens! For Aardman’s first feature length picture, Nick Park and his team borrowed heavily from a British classic, with the Hilts-esque Ginger (Julia Sawalha) and her Scottish accomplice Mac (thankfully not shot up against the fences) leading a brood of chickens to freedom after their tyrannical farmers make a switch from eggs to chicken pies. The parallels run deep, from the multiple escape attempts using homemade and stolen tools to a heavy American influence courtesy of Mel Gibson’s circus cockerel Rocky Rhodes, although I very much doubt that this was based on a true story. Other elements, from a Flight of the Phoenix inspired mechanical plane to a Raiders style hat gag (by law, every film featuring a vertically closing door must feature the hero sliding under it to safety, before reaching back to retrieve their fallen hat) all add to the fun, but I was annoyed at the farmers complete lack of concern that, not only were their hens wearing hats and scarves, but one of them was wearing glasses. Timothy Spall and Phil Daniel’s east end spiv rats were excellent additions too.