The sky has been falling, and not just in Chicken Little's town of Oakey Oaks. The folks at Walt Disney Pictures, who dominated the kiddie film market for decades, have been in a state of suspended animation for the past several years, churning out duds like Atlantis: The Lost Empire while partner studio Pixar reinvented the genre with Toy Story and Finding Nemo. But thanks to this splashy computer-animated debut, Disney has finally rediscovered its magical mojo.
Retelling a familiar kids' tale, the movie looks at spunky sad sack Chicken Little, who whips the town into a lather with his claim of celestial precipitation (everyone else thinks he was just beaned with an acorn). When gravity attacks again, the bitty bird teams up with his pals, including sweet "ugly duckling" Abby (Cusack) and disco-loving pig Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn), to investigate.
As he does on Scrubs, Braff brings the right mix of droll humor and fragility to the title character, who warns a foe during a dodgeball game, "Prepare to hurt, and I don't mean emotionally, like I do." Plenty of hilarious throwaway gags camouflage the thin storyline, which just barely sustains a feature-length movie. Still, the result is easily Disney's most entertaining film since 1999's Tarzan. Once again, it seems, the sky's the limit. (G)