Genre: CG Animation
Director: Ben Stassen, Benjamin Mousquet
Cast: Jordan Tartakow, Joe Ochman, Danny Fehsenfeld, Mark Irons, Donte Paris
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: Muse Communication & Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 2 June 2022
Synopsis: Set in a lush fantasy world, the film follows the adventures of Chickenhare, a young hero born half chicken and half hare, who was adopted by King Peter, a famous hare adventurer. Eager to fit in and feel loved in spite of his differences, Chickenhare is obsessed with adventuring...no matter how clumsy he is. When the Kingdom's greatest villain - his very own uncle - escapes from jail and threatens to overthrow his father, Chickenhare embarks on an epic race against time along with Abe, sarcastic turtle, and Med, a reckless female martial arts expert, to stop him.
From the independent Belgian studio nWave behind such modest feature-length animations as ‘Sammy’s Adventures’, ‘The Son of Bigfoot’ and ‘The Queen’s Corgi’ comes their latest family-friendly adventure about a part-chicken, part-hare character named Chickenhare, who sets off on a quest to stop his nefarious uncle Lapin from acquiring the legendary scepter known as the Hamster of Darkness, after inadvertently setting Lapin free from the prison he has been imprisoned in following a failed attempt to overthrow Chickenhare’s father King Peter.
Those who have seen their earlier films should know that it is easily their best yet, boasting an engaging screenplay by Hollywood writer Dave Collard (who was co-writer on Disney’s ‘The Wild’) as well as crisp direction from nWave veterans Ben Stassen and Benjamin Mousquet. ‘Chickenhare’ is also testament to how far nWave has evolved its technology over the years, with the animation looking as bright, lively and rich as their accomplished Hollywood counterparts, though to their credit, they never let that distract from what is an inspiring story about embracing your differences and turning them into strength.
Drawing from the graphic novel by Chris Grine, ‘Chickenhare’ lets its titular character (voiced by Jordan Tartakow) take centre stage in this coming-of-age adventure. After an opening prologue depicting how Peter (Brad Venable) discovered Chickenhare and adopted him, the story quickly moves to establish Chickenhare as an insecure young teenager unsure of how to fit in, deciding to mask his chicken-like qualities in order to appear more ‘hare’. It is Chickenhare’s eagerness to prove himself to his father King Peter that also leads him to enter the dungeon where Uncle Lapin (Danny Fehsenfeld) has been locked up since a failed coup, and why Chickenhare decides to take it upon himself to stop Lapin from acquiring the magical powers of the scepter that could lead to the destruction of the kingdom.
As with such animations, Chickenhare’s journey is enlivened by a roster of colourful supporting characters. Aiding Chickenhare is his faithful servant Abe (Joey Lotsko), a turtle whose sarcasm adds much dry levity to the proceedings, and an unlikely new friend he meets named Meg (Laila Berzins), a rebellious female skunk whose ultimate martial arts skill of farting will delight the children. On the other hand, Lapin is accompanied by Meg (Dino Andrade), a duck whose self-importance is simply amusing, and Luther (Joseph Carmen), a gorilla who has since left behind his glory days as a criminal to become a stay-at-home father.
To Stassen and Mousquet’s credit, there is never a dull moment throughout the 90-minute film, buoyed as it is by dynamic action sequences sharply choreographed and executed. The standout here is a kooky set-piece involving a confrontation between Chickenhare and his companions and an army of marshmellow pigs that live in a bamboo forest, the latter utterly delightful in their cube-shaped copiousness advancing like a living game of Tetris to capture our heroes as sacrifice for their pagan-styled worship ceremony. Like we said, nWave has come a long way since their earlier ‘Sammy’s Adventures’, and it shows in every frame.
Even though it doesn’t break new ground for the genre, ‘Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness’ is enjoyable in its own right, with a uplifting story, great pacing and strong visuals combining to make it perfectly accessible family entertainment. A special shout-out too to the cast, who demonstrate there are perfectly talented voice actors out there who are not big-name Hollywood stars. Amidst other higher-profile animations like ‘Lightyear’ and ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’, those looking for something simple but just as sweet for the kids will find ‘Chickenhare’ an unassuming and therefore unexpected delight.
(An engaging coming-of-age story, great pacing and strong visuals combine to make this familiar but fun animation an unassuming delight)
Review by Gabriel Chong