November 18, 2016


Starring Brian Knox, Shari McCollough, Brian Caraker (as themselves). Directed by Nicole Lucas Haimes. (2016, 83 min).

I remember first seeing the heavy metal documentary Anvil! The Story of Anvil, about a hapless metal band that never found any success despite 30 years of trying. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and seek it out because it’s essentially This is Spinal Tap, only real, which is part of what makes the film so fascinating (and often just as funny). In yet another case of life imitating art, Chicken People is to Christopher Guest’s Best in Show what Anvil is to Spinal Tap.

Almost identical in structure to Best in Show, Chicken People follows three competitive breeders as they discuss their life-long obsession with raising show-birds while preparing for the upcoming Ohio National Poultry Show, apparently the chicken world’s Super Bowl. Brian Caraker is a young lounge singer whose beleaguered parents appear do most of the work; Brian Knox builds racing engines for tractor-pulls while trying to breed the perfect chicken; Shari McCollough is a homemaker whose husband, five kids and dogs must share their home with a few thousand birds.

Chickens require firm discipline.
Chicken People does an admirable job allowing us to get to know these people (both inside and outside the breeding world). As casual viewers, we may feel they are a bit overzealous in their passion, but the film is never condescending or mean-spirited. We genuinely grow to like these folks, maybe even rooting for one over the others as the climactic competition draws closer. At the very least, these guys are living the dream, such as it is.

People Magazine's Sexiest Bird Alive.
And, of course, there are chickens. Lots and lots of fowl, from the common to the exotic. They’re all fun to watch because, in general, chickens are amusing animals. While this doesn’t seem like the subject of a compelling documentary, Chicken People is not only strangely fascinating, but good-natured, funny and charming. The film is unrated, so be ready for a bit of explicit chicken-on-chicken action.


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