Duck Duck Goose is the epitome of thoughtless animated tripe, and any goodwill it earns for being pretty is splurged on unfunny inanity.
You’d be forgiven for not having heard of Duck Duck Goose, which arrives on Netflix today after a sneaky UK theatrical release. It received virtually no marketing, it wasn’t screened for press, and as a consequence nobody watched it. Which is probably just as well, as Duck Duck Goose is a lazy and lifeless animated animal slog, with a cutesy cast that couldn’t exhibit less personality if they were mounted on a taxidermist’s wall.
Peng (Jim Gaffigan) is a freewheeling bachelor, but he’s also a goose preparing to migrate south for the winter. But his recklessness earns him a broken wing, and the responsibility of two orphan ducklings, Chao (Lance Lim) and Chi (Zendaya), who have been separated from the rest of their flock. Stalked by a nutty feral cat called Banzhou (Greg Proops), they’re forced on an adventure rife with trite observations about family and responsibility.
Duck Duck Goose, which comes courtesy of Christopher Jenkins, who’s perhaps best-known for Surf’s Up, is a Sino-American production, so while its themes are universal, its setting is unambiguously Chinese. This is about the only good thing the film has to offer, as the generally solid animation boasts a few gorgeous environmental backdrops. But what’s unfolding across them is a litany of patronizing truisms about the dangers of overreaching, which I suppose is ironic for a film that barely reaches at all. Kids aren’t having a great year with the likes of the abominable Peter Rabbit doing the rounds, but at least that was committed to its awfulness. Duck Duck Goose can’t even summon the enthusiasm to be bad with any real conviction.
The cast is, frankly, astonishing. I could scarcely believe some of the names attached to this tripe: Stephen Fry, Jennifer Grey, Reggie Watts, Carl Reiner – it’s like a cruel joke to see how many personalities could be rendered utterly uninteresting. Jim Gaffigan does his best, bless him, but there’s only so much that can be reasonably achieved by reading aloud material that is about as interesting as an oddly fluffy phone book. (Ask your parents.)
The jokes, such as they can be called that, are the usual low-hanging fruits snatched from their withered tree as lazily as possible. Farts. S**t. Arseholes. I haven’t suddenly developed literary Tourette’s – this is the actual material. This typical juvenile nonsense brushes up awkwardly against the odd gag aimed at adults, none of which are clever or charming enough to feel worthy of their inclusion, or, indeed, the price of a ticket. Netflix is doing y’all a favor by plonking this in your living room free of charge, but all the same, these are animals that would be better off migrating into both barrels of a farmer’s shotgun.