Does this latest movie in children’s animation soar to new heights or is it a flightless (and boring) lame duck of a feature?
Synopsis: Peng is a freewheeling bachelor goose who’d rather do anything than practice for the upcoming migration. He thinks he’s better than everyone else and spends his time attempting crazy stunts at even crazier speeds. In one such stunt, Peng flies too near the ground, hits a flock of ducklings and separates brother and sister, Chao and Chi, from the rest. In this unlikely meeting, Peng will begin a journey that will break his wing and nearly break his heart as he grows to understand the power of unconditional love in the form of two ducklings, who likewise grow to see him as the best father they could ever have. (Original Force 3D Animation)
Starring: Jim Gaffigan, Zendaya, and Lance Lim
Writers: Christopher Jenkins, Rob Muir, Scott Atkinson, and Tegan West
Director: Christopher Jenkins
Running Time: 91mins
Duck Duck Goose is too broad and too bland; painting very broad strokes in pandering to its demographic target, but misses its mark at being both entertaining and / or memorable. Jenkins, a fixture in animated films, made his directorial debut here. Given his background in animation, Jenkins seems like a suitable choice to direct. At its core, the movie follows a formulaic path, but a well-trodden one that many youngsters are able to identify with the film’s various animated characters. Yes, it’s the metaphor story / plotline we all know: a self-centered character believes he’s better than everyone else and must overcome several obstacles; learning a thematic message during the duration of his journey. To his credit, Jenkins does follow through with this notion, making the film’s moral / message valid by the film’s ending feel importance a good life lesson for kids to learn. In the end, Jenkins (for better or worse) makes the movie have a good fundamental message for kids to learn.
In terms of animation, Duck Duck Goose is a mixed bag. The character designs for all the various characters are all adequately rendered. They aren’t necessarily terrible considering they were all done by a smaller animated company and not by one of the powerhouse studios. The backgrounds, however, are at least ten times better than the actual character design. The rest of the technical merits (from film editing to production design) are just okay. Even the film’s score, composed by Mark Isham, was just okay. It had its moments but is hardly his best work.
Unfortunately, Duck Duck Goose mostly falters under its ambition (or lack thereof) and doesn’t really make a splash, let alone in the world of recent animated children’s films. Perhaps the main reason for this is that the movie rarely does anything remotely original or innovatively new per se. The movie is completely generic and it’s narrative has been told many times before. Repurposing some common storytelling threads and moral lessons is all well and good, but only if the movie itself is well-crafted with enough creativity and originality to mold those tried and true thematic messages into makes them the film’s own.
Unfortunately, Duck Duck Goose, despite having an important message, just lacks creativity and originality, with the film taking cues and scenarios from other animated features. The film’s screenplay doesn’t help as well, providing the basic storyline narrative that rarely goes outside the lines of originality, making it more of a paint-by-numbers endeavor. Additionally, there’s hardly any substance to the film’s script. Yes, there’s several problems to overcome, but lacks depth, and the movie just seems to be going through the motions.
The film’s humorous jokes and gags were a bit undercooked. While lowbrow humor is okay for a kids movie, it has to be presented in such a way that makes them fun and humorous. Their usage here feels forced and cheap with some feeling grossly out of place. The rest of the movie’s comedy is subpar and was rarely funny. Another annoying thing about the movie was its usage of punk / pop songs. Again,While it’s not uncommon for kids movies to feature a variety of musical songs that one would hear on the radio now and again, but it has to fit within the context of the movie’s setting and / or plot. Duck Duck Goose’s usage of pop / punk songs seems completely shoehorned into the movie and just feels really out of place. Also, the film’s setting of China, was underutilized as well. Besides the classic “Great Wall of China” mention and few other Chinese nuances, Duck Duck Goose just lacks that mention of anything of the nation’s heritage or culture.
The voice talents in Duck Duck Goose are fairly adequate, but many of the selected actors and actresses don’t particularly match up to their respective characters. The vocal performances are not really great nor memorable in this movie. Gaffigan, the voice of Peng, actually delivers the best performance, utilizing his own natural sounding voice to give Peng a sense of nonchalant / carefree bravado. The other standout performance in the movie is the character of Chi, voiced by Zendaya, providing some of the more humorous bits in the movie. However, Chi is still one-dimensional and Zendaya’s voice is underutilized in the role. Likewise, Lim was not particularly memorable as Chi’s little brother Chao. His voice is fine, but it sounds a bit off to the character on-screen.
Director Christopher Jenkins latest film is a light and breezy animated, albeit forgettable and bland, feature that doesn’t color outside the lines, but provides enough cartoon fluff to pass along a good thematic message for kids to learn. The movie just never comes into its own and just feels generic, like a hollow run-of-the-mill DTV (direct-to-video) animated endeavor. Thus, this movie is difficult to recommend as there’s little reason to see it, considering the other (and better) kid animated movies out there.
2.2 Out of 5 (Skip It)
If interested, check out my movie blog @ Jason’s Movie Blog for my reviews of current movies.