Charlie Chicken is a chicken who runs a scheme pretending to be a television producer in order to take advantage of naive young women. Norah is the latest woman to fall for Charlie's ruse but things become complicated when Charlie starts to become obsessed with Norah. What started out as a simple plan to lure a woman into bed and to take her money spirals out of control and will eventually lead to someone, or some chicken, ending up dead in the desert.
Gimmicks in movies are nothing new but it seems like there have been more than a few coming out recently with an addition of puppets into the movie, or in the case "The Puppet Monster Massacre", having nothing but puppets. It's hard to know what the movie's intentions are since it could simply be a gimmick. Or maybe another filmmaker is looking to destroy the innocent-childhood image that puppets represent, like in "Meet the Feebles". The trailer for Carter Mays' "Bad Chicken" looked to be more along the lines of the latter; it looked like there was a good story but with an addition of chicken puppets to take a black-comedy film into absurdist territory.
Norah, a beautiful young woman, is looking to make her big break by becoming a famous celebrity. However, she wants to take a shortcut and find her 15-minutes of fame by participating in a reality-tv program. After receiving a response from Charlie Chicken, a TV producer who saw Norah's demo tape, it looks like she might finally get her chance. However, Charlie Chicken has a different idea and uses his ruse as a producer to corrupt the relationship between Norah and her boyfriend, Isaak, in order for Charlie to take Norah for himself.
While the trailer for "Bad Chicken" looked good, I still had my doubts that the movie was anything other than a movie riding on a gimmick. Much like "Thankskilling". Thankfully, "Bad Chicken" had some great writing behind it and featured a well crafted story. Perhaps not the most unique of concepts but it was done very well; the plot revolving around a young woman who will do anything to become famous and how easily her dream becomes twisted and corrupted. There was an obvious social commentary to the movie, but it never felt heavy handed about it. If anything it gave "Bad Chicken" a grounding element since the character Norah seemed to represent the mindset the current populous has. The willingness to do anything to become famous, even if it might be a fleeting moment, by participating on a reality television show.
Of course the movie can still feel gimmicky with the characters Charlie, Caesar and Carl -- the three chickens behind this fake tv show -- but Carter Mays did the best thing he could do with having the characters being chicken puppets: he made no acknowledgments of it. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like everything -- movies or tv shows -- feels the need to be self-aware. With "Bad Chicken", the absurdity of having chicken puppets in the movie is never called out. It may seem silly but that's what allowed the movie to work. "Bad Chicken" could have gone the easy route and made its focus be on the fact that it's a movie that has chickens in it. Instead the story treats them like any other character; they don't hang a lantern on the fact that they're chickens and puppets.
By doing that, Carter allowed the humor and the movie to feel more natural. "Bad Chicken" doesn't beat the viewer over the head with the absurd setup. It doesn't feel like the movie is screaming back at the viewer and saying, "Look at this movie! We've got scumbag producers being represented by using chicken puppets! Isn't that clever and funny?! Laugh at this ridiculous scenario! Laugh, goddammit!"
Like I said, it allowed the movie to be much more natural and showed that Carter Mays had the confidence to have the material carry the weight of the movie. That's what ultimately what made the movie an enjoyable. Now, the downside to "Bad Chicken" is that while it was good it wasn't very memorable. It was well written, the humor was good and it had a nice dark streak to it but there wasn't much that stood out about the movie. It felt like it could have been darker. And since it is essentially about Charlie Chicken corrupting Norah and sending her life in a downward spiral while she attempts to become famous, there was never any tension to it. You could see the direction that the story was heading and it seemed as the movie should have boiled over when it finally reached the climax. The point where Charlie dragged Norah and Isaak down as far as they could go. Sadly it doesn't though. "Bad Chicken" sort of rides this straight line from beginning to end. For better or worse, it never tries to go above the average.
Excuse the cheap simile, but it was like eating flavorless chicken -- there was something missing that would have made it far more satisfying. That's the only thing that stops "Bad Chicken" from being a great movie -- that little something extra that would have made it more memorable. As it stands, "Bad Chicken" is a good movie but just a little bit forgettable. The script was solid; a good story with some well place social satire and there was a nice mix of dark and absurd humor too. I think anyone who gives "Bad Chicken" a chance will enjoy the movie since it is as well done as it is. I know I'm glad I watched it and I'm looking forward to what Carter Mays does next.