When it comes to the filmmaking medium of animation, I am the first to jump to its defense when people try to claim they are all strictly for kids. Animation does not always thematically mean we are dealing with a children’s film. Look at nearly any of Pixar’s output, gritty anime, or even hilariously off-color mainstream affairs such as 2016’s Sausage Party—what do these films have in common? They all elevate the material far above ‘cartoons for kids’ and into the plane of entertainment that can be consumed by any age bracket. I am sorry to report that Birds Like Us is rather an exception to this longstanding argument, mainly in the fact that nothing here will likely be enjoyed by anyone older than the age of five or six.
Conversely, nothing is really wrong with films like this, per se. Birds Like Us gets the job done adequately by introducing a diverse cast of bird characters that must embark on a perilous journey (a la Madagascar, or The Wild, or any number of these copy-and-paste family films), but its story is so hopelessly convoluted and borderline confusing that I question who was really the target audience. The conflict feels boiled down to an almost pedestrian level, but the animation style is so poor that becoming lost in translation is sadly a common occurrence throughout.
The citizens of Birdabad must blindly accept that Kondor has their best interests at heart. In order to shield them all from the real Horror, Kondor demands a daily ritual of sacrifices to achieve great “Egguilibrium.” Hupu, the young swan, and Hassan, the mute owl, depart on a quest to stop Hupu’s precious egg from being snatched. Insert Bat, a character that seems to be literally a copy and paste of the Cheshire Cat complete with a fluffy tail, only he is a mysterious—you guessed it—bat. Bat acts as a guide to escape the iron grip of the Horror. Can Hupu find a safe place for her egg?
The main issues here can be identified easily: the animation style is an abomination, and there is a sad lack of originality. A couple of neat visuals (an obscene amount of umbrellas flapping about from every direction and a shopping-cart race sequence) cannot save it either. Inspired by “Conference of the Birds,” I think Birds Like Us needed a conference of its own. Despite blatant faults, the one area Birds Like Us excels is in the voice acting. Jeremy Irons is the obviously-awful Kondor, and Alicia Vikander is the tender and loving Hupu. Maybe youngsters, or unsuspecting families, will find enjoyment here that I unfortunately did not experience.
Birds Like Us hunts for a good place with meat, fruit, and shelter when it debuts on Digital, On Demand, and DVD on Tuesday, January 25th.