TL;DR – a film about differences and how those differences are what make us interesting.
Review (warning: spoilers)
Chickenhare, as the name suggests, is half-chicken, half-hare and he has no idea why he was born this way. He is found as a baby in a boat by two hare brothers, Peter and Lapin, who are adventurers trying to find the Hamster of Darkness (a mythical sceptre that can summon an army of ghost hamsters). Raised by Peter, Chickenhare idolises his adopted father and wants to become an adventurer as well. However, he is teased incessantly for his appearance and tries to cover up the chicken parts of him so he looks like a hare only.
He wears fluffy rabbit shoes over his chicken feet and a fedora hat to cover the chicken feathers that grow between his large rabbit ears that would make Dumbo the elephant envious. While Peter expresses a love that accepts all of Chickenhare, Chickenhare hates that he is different.
Bubbling beneath the surface is a rivalry and feud between the two hare brothers that reminded me a lot of the relationship between Mufasa and Scar in “The Lion King”. Peter is anointed the King of Featherbeard, and Lapin attempts to overthrow his brother for the crown but fails. Stuck in a cell, Lapin is allowed to access books and continues to research the Hamster of Darkness, which in his mind if he can obtain he will become ruler of Featherbeard.
When Chickenhare comes of age, he undertakes the trials set by the Royal Adventure Society to become a full fledged adventurer. Unfortunately, he fails the obstacle course due to the gear he is wearing that covers up his chicken features. Down but not out, Chickenhare endeavours to secretly find the Hamster of Darkness to prove his ability as an adventurer. He goes to meet his Uncle Lapin in jail to obtain a book on the Hamster of Darkness and in doing so, Lapin obtains one of Chickenhare’s feathers to pick the lock to escape. Thus begins the race to find the Hamster of Darkness first.
Chickenhare and the Hamster of Darkness takes a lot of inspiration from other films. As mentioned above, there is “The Lion King” rivalry between brothers Peter and Lapin. And Chickenhare is a character like Dumbo the elephant, who is shunned for his appearance. There is even a scene later in the film where Chickenhare finally accepts who he is and his enormously large rabbit ears sprout chicken feathers allowing him to fly just like Dumbo. But the inspirations don’t stop there. Others that I picked up include:
- The adventure scenes are all influenced from “Indiana Jones” movies with booby traps and even a giant rock wheel that slowly rolls down a hallway threatening to crush Chickenhare and his friends (just like Indiana did running away from the giant boulder in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”).
- Lapin’s imprisonment down the bottom levels of the dungeon reminded me of Tai Lung the snow leopard in “Kung Fu Panda”. Lapin even escapes using one of Chickenhare’s feathers to pick the lock, just as Tai Lung escaped from his shackles using a duck feather.
- The obstacle course set out by the Royal Adventure Society uses dangerous contraptions to test the dexterity and skill of the wannabe adventurer. It reminded me a bit of the training arena in “How to Train Your Dragon” minus the dragons.
With all the above elements, does the movie work? Surprisingly yes. Though there are clear tributes to other films including a moment where Lapin reveals that he is Chickenhare’s father (actually he’s not, but they had to do an ode to “Star Wars”), the movie works because the characters are engaging and the story of accepting one’s differences, and it is these differences that make us interesting and unique, is a message that all audiences young and old should hear and embrace.
Chickenhare is supported through the film by Meg (a skunk who faces her own issues of discrimination) and Abe (a pessimistic tortoise that is so droll in his delivery that you can’t help but chuckle).
And then there is the scene with the “pigmies”. A tribe of pig-like critters that see Chickenhare as a god that they provide a banquet for and then subsequently will sacrifice in a volcano. These pink little dudes stole the show. They can turn themselves into cube building blocks and essentially build one on top of each other into transformer-like structures. They’re hilarious and quite alarming when a tidal wave of them come at you.
And did I mention that the when the Hamster of Darkness is used to summon the ghost hamsters they reminded me of the green ghost swarm in “Lord of the Rings”?
I mean do I need to go on? It’s an enjoyable ride.
8.5 out of 10