A good voice cast and beautifully animated backdrops of the stunning geography of China are enough to lift this undemanding animated animal fable above the flock.
When reckless goose Peng (Jim Gaffigan) passes up the chance to migrate with the rest of the flock, he’s left to fend for himself when an injured wing means he has to walk south for the winter. TO make matters worse, he finds himself with two orphaned ducklings in tow and stalked by a crazed feral cat called Banzhou (Greg Proops).
A Sino-American production, “Duck Duck Goose” tells its story economically and without any unnecessary fuss or embellishment. While the setting is unambiguously Chinese, the story and characters are pretty much universal as the ducklings, played by Lance Lim and Zendaya, seek out a comforting parental presence and Peng comes to grips with the responsibilities of growing up and caring for others.
There are refreshingly few, if any, forced pop-culture references or jokes and while the frequent riffing on ‘duck!’, ‘no, it’s a goose’ got old fast, the rest of the film is filled with gentle humour, frequent cartoon slapstick and, of course, the occasional fart joke. Proops’ performance as both of Banzhou’s personalities is one of the film’s strengths and with a supporting cast featuring the likes of Diedrich Bader, Reggie Watts, Carl Reiner, Stephen Fry and Craig Ferguson, there’s plenty of wit in the vocals to support the appealing visuals.
I was fortunate enough to see it with a little duck, duck, goose flock of my own: the littlest Craggling (5), her best friend (5) and her friends’ older sister (8) and all three were kept amused and entertained by the shenanigans on screen. The film trundles along very nicely for its 90-minute runtime and while it never reaches the dizzying heights of, say, Pixar, part of its charm is that it’s aware of its own limitations and never overreaches itself. With not much else aimed at the junior market out this Easter holidays apart from the excruciating “Peter Rabbit”, you could do a lot worse than take your fledgelings to see this.