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Soundtrack review: Chicken run (John Powell and Harry Gregson Williams – 2000)

Composer of the month John Powell month

Soundtrack review: Chicken run (John Powell and Harry Gregson Williams – 2000)


“Chicken run” is an animated movie from 2000 which gained almost unanimous acclaim and this is rare for this kind of movie. I might even watch it seeing how everyone reacted to it. It’s another animation score written by John Powell in collaboration with Harry Gregson Williams, as they did for Shrek. This review is part of “John Powell month”. Animation scores for me are hit and miss, it depends on my mood and on how the composer manages to keep it interesting.

First off I notice that the track length are grown up size: 20 cues for one hour. That means the theme have time to develop. I’m warming up to this one at the end of the main titles when a sort of jolly fanfare puts me in a really good mood. The circus fun continues with “The evil Mrs Tweedy”. This cue is enjoyable but I don’t know if I can make it through an hour of this. “Rats!” makes me think of the “Police academy march”.

“We need a miracle” is the first romantic moment of “Chicken run”. It completely changes the mood of the score and it makes me think of the mandatory dramatic moments in romantic comedies, while the ending is downright Christmasy. “Rocky and the circus” starts with jazzy fun before returning to the sound this score established already. “Flight training” mixes it up again and the kid in me loves this tune. It’s light, fun melodic and it has a lovely rhythm. I think the kids will love this track.

“A really big truck arrives” lasts for 6 minutes and it’s the longest piece of this score. It’s engaging and adventurous and makes me want to fly. For me all the right elements come together in this track and make for the most exciting few minutes form “Chicken run”. I was kind of lukewarm on the score until now but this cue makes it all worth while. With a piece like this and the variety of the music styles which becomes obvious in “Cocktails and flighty thoughts” or “Babs’ big beak” this score gets entertaining. It actually makes me want to see the movie even more because it sounds like a lot of fun. The big band inserts and the joyful motifs bring a sunny party feeling.

“Up on the roof” gets serious and melancholic. This no longer sounds like an animation score but a drama one. There’s a trumpet which makes me think of the wake up call in army movies and I am very curious what scene this cue supports. With this track I got all I needed from this score and I am expecting it to end. But there are still 6 regular sized cues left and I feel it’s a little too much. They are still entertaining enough but they just recycle the motifs already played until now. This was my biggest problem with “Chicken run” I guess, the fact that it felt a little stretched. It didn’t need an hour of music. 40 minutes of variety and themes would have been enough. Still it was enjoyable and it’s worth a listen.

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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