Based on the old tale, and the image of ardent, mythological stupidity -- the chicken who thought the sky was falling when an acorn fell on its head -- the computer-animated gee-whizzer "Chicken Little" takes the story one more crank toward the literal. When the thing hits the bird, it turns out, guess what, it is a piece of the sky, the sky is falling. It's like saying: McCarthy was right! Sheesh, revisionist history: It's everywhere!

The movie then wittily finds a way to morph into a fabulous parody of "War of the Worlds," possibly a bit intense in parts for the smallest of beings, and for just a moment a subversive idea comes to mind: Could the Walt Disney Co. have actually unleashed on the unsuspecting public a movie, in the form of a G-rated cartoon, in which . . . heh, heh . . . the world as we know it ends and the few of us who survive are turned into slaves?!

But no: The film backs away from this interesting proposition and chooses sound family values -- the lessons of love, loyalty and brotherhood, tolerance and peace -- over sheer nihilism. Drat! I hate when that happens.

The animators are -- you almost no longer have to say this -- fabulous and full of mischief, weaving enough ironic amusements into the story for the longer of tooth. There's a gimmick where the world is ending but the big fat pig can't get a vending machine to accept a wrinkled dollar. As a man whose dollars are always wrinkled, I especially enjoyed this witty little aside, which maybe nine people will even notice. But it means that somebody is paying attention.

-- Stephen Hunter

The sky's the limit for Runt of the Litter (left, voiced by Steve Zahn) and Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff).