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Parents of little kids: don’t be misled by the classy stars – Kate Winslet and Willem Dafoe – providing the voices for the English-language version of this German animation about an orphaned swift raised by seagulls. Virtually laugh-free, so-so looking with a seriously drippy musical number, it feels like a film slipped into cinemas over summer to sucker parents desperate to do something, anything, to fill a couple of hours.
The story is familiar from a dozen children’s films, with sizeable debt to The Jungle Book. Josh Keaton voices the little swift Manou, whose parents are killed before he hatches on the side of a cliff along the Côte d’Azur. All alone in the world, baby Manou finds his way into the nest of a pair of gulls (voiced by Winslet and Dafoe), who raise him as their son, despite seagulls and swifts being sworn enemies. But, as he grows up, Manou becomes painfully aware that he’s not like other gulls.
Really, you’d have thought nature had done the heavy lifting – lairy seagulls with their querulous calls and sandwich-stealing dive bombing are a gift to animators. And imagine what Pixar could do with swifts, who fly in their sleep and hold aerial screaming parties. But the characterisation is dull, with the exception of a bird-brained guinea fowl who laments a past love, lost to a Thanksgiving dinner.
Villains of the piece are a swarm of twitchy rats who attack nests and steal eggs. Predictably, this threat brings together the warring gulls and swifts to form an avian United Nations. And, to the dismay no doubt of four-year-olds everywhere, there is not a single bird-poo joke in the entire film.
• Birds of a Feather is released in the UK on 26 July.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Birds of a Feather review – swifts and seagulls in an unfunny flap | Animation in film