Birds of a Feather (3 stars)

Birds of a Feather

Kate Winslet and Willem Dafoe lend their voices to this well-crafted children's animation

Children's animation is a grown-up business; every year, many European-financed films emerge to grab a slice of the Pixar / Disney / DreamWorks dominated action, but few make it into multiplexes. Manou the Swift, retitled Birds of a Feather, marks the first animated feature from German VFX outfit LUXX Studios (who worked on Independence Day: Resurgence and The Grand Budapest Hotel), and feels like a more considered effort than most.

Manou (voiced by Josh Keaton) is a swift raised by two stern seagulls Blanche and Yves (Kate Winslet and Willem Dafoe) in the blue skies above an unnamed coastal city on the French Riviera. It's soon clear that the short-winged Manou is never going to soar like the other seagulls. A failure to guard some precious eggs leads him to be ostracised by his colony and he's forced to make his own way in the world with the help of a few other odd birds.

Featuring an ongoing war of suspicion between swifts and seagulls, Birds of a Feather bears similarities to the plot of 2017's Little Bird's Big Adventure, which gave us a sparrow hero vexed by his upbringing within a family of storks. Christian Haas and Andrea Block's film is slicker, with two big stars heading the voice cast and some impressively rendered animation, particularly an early race and chase scene, while the narrative elements are refined enough to make the sunny visuals sing.

Oddly, it's the character designs that seem a little inflexible here; minor players like guinea fowl Parcival appear more expressive than Manou, and the birds are, on the whole, more likeable than lovable. But small children should dig its simple, well-crafted coming-of-age story, set in the world of our feathered friends.

General release from Fri 26 Jul.

Birds of a Feather

  • 3 stars
  • 2019
  • Germany
  • 1h 30min
  • Directed by: Christian Haas, Andrea Block
  • Cast: Kate Winslet, Willem Dafoe, Rob Paulsen
  • UK release: 26 July 2019

Manou (Keaton) is a swift raised by two seagulls, Blanche and Yves (Winslet and Dafoe) in the skies above a coastal city on the French Riviera; when he’s ostracised by his colony he has to make his own way. This slick German feature has a fine English-language voice cast and it’s a simple, well-crafted coming of age story.