Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG Length: 82 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 6+. This animated tale about two groups of ducks almost going into war but underestimating a human enemy includes some scenes of implied violence, like a human using a knife to threaten to chop up, kill, and cook a duck; lots of name-calling and insults; a prophecy that suggests a main character’s death; a crush between two young duck characters; a theme that technology is good (a character’s tablet ends up helping to save the day, whereas a book is mocked); an attempted kiss; and a female villain who is somewhat sexualized, wearing a corset and tight pants, and who is featured in various shots with an emphasis on her behind.
The animated film ‘Quackerz’ wants to tell a story about acceptance and partnership, but it is shot through with lazy moments in character and plot development. It will be good enough for very young audiences, but this is at-home viewing.
By Roxana Hadadi
For a rainy afternoon with young kids, “Quackerz” is an acceptable-enough choice. The film’s bright visuals and its familiar story about a friendship developing between members of two rival groups will amuse children for its relatively brief 82-minute runtime. But some of the lazier moments and questionable messaging of “Quackerz” will be worth talking through with kids, especially because the movie takes such a hard line on undermining parental authority.
It’s not like kids disrespecting their parents is a new thing in pop culture; even this week’s other big animated feature release, “Finding Dory,” sees Nemo questioning his father’s treatment of Dory and trying to change him to be less anxious and worried all the time. But “Quackerz” doubles down on its insistence to young viewers that what they want is right: that the use of tablets and modern technology is preferable to books and that the idea of “prophecy” or prepared paths for individuals is foolish. Those aren’t inherently negative messages, but they probably warrant a follow-up conversation with children about their use of technology and what they think about the guidance of outside mentors in their lives.
Aside from that, so much of “Quackerz” is familiar. Boy and girl from opposite sides of a conflict form a friendship. Evil villain wants to harness nature for her own vain ends. Compromise, confidence, and cooperation are the keys to success. None of this is very surprising—or handled that uniquely, honestly—but “Quackerz” tries to spice things up with steampunk details and a colorful aesthetic.
“Quackerz” begins by introducing the Mandarin ducks, who are led by Emperor Pengli (voiced by Enn Reitel), and who will eventually be led by Pengli’s son Longway (voiced by Robbie Daymond). Pengli thinks everything is fine on their island, but Longway wants to see the world—a problem because Longway can’t fly. What Pengli is keeping from his son is that there is a prophecy suggesting that Longway could die saving their people, and the secret that Longway could be the mythical, magical Sun Duck is causing a rift between the two.
Their idyllic island is disrupted, though, when it is accidentally invaded by the Military Mallards, a group led by the warrior Duckmus (voiced by Michael Gross). The dismissive, stubborn Duckmus doesn’t take people questioning his authority very well, which puts him at odds with his daughter Erica (voiced by Andrea Becker), who wonders why they’re there.
When Erica and Longway meet, they quickly become friends, but Longway is embarrassed that he can’t fly like she can. And while they acknowledge that their parents are at odds, they also realize that both groups are in danger from another villain, Ms. Knout (voiced by Alanna Ubach), who wants to use the Sun for her own ends. With her threatening of the Sun, will the Mandarin Ducks and the Military Mallards come together? Or will their infighting put them in more danger?
There is no real threat at any point during “Quackerz” toward either group of ducks, so the focus of the film is never any tension. What “Quackerz” does want to focus on is a friendship between Longway and Erica, and although it is very insult-heavy, it does ultimately build confidence for each individual character, which is nice. The same can’t be said for Ms. Knout, who disappointingly ends up being as vain and superficial of a character as you would expect a beauty-obsessed witch to be, but at least “Quackerz” does well with Erica, Longway, and the bond they form.
But the unevenness of “Quackerz” is inarguable, and it’s weirder choices—the steampunk style the ducks all have that is never explained; random Russian and other foreign accents for the ducks, who are clearly in China; and this bizarre scene where a gramophone plays vaguely hip-hop music and a duck breakdances—are so strange that they’ll knock you right out of the movie. “Quackerz” is acceptable enough as a way to spend an afternoon indoors, but don’t expect too much.
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