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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Stork's Journey is an enjoyable story about a young bird desperate to find his adopted family as they migrate south for the winter. Abandonment is a key element of the tale, and there are several sad moments. The leading character is orphaned early in the film. Expect lots of cartoon action and suspense as the movie's likable, quirky characters encounter a profusion of dangerous enemies (fierce honey badgers, bats, spiders, a bear) and fly into scary situations (storms, a rockslide, an airplane, steep falls). In numerous scenes, it appears that one of the heroic team may not survive; each lies still, lifeless, until eventually he or she is revived. This English-language adaptation of a European animated film finds the migrating birds on their way to Africa rather than the Southern U.S., Mexico, and South America, the destinations of North American birds. It's only for kids who can clearly distinguish real versus pretend violence.
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What's the story?
Richard (voiced predominantly by Drake Bell), a baby sparrow, emerges from his shell only to find an empty nest in A STORK'S JOURNEY. He's rescued by a loving mother stork who brings him back to her flock. Richard, sure that he too is a stork, grows up in the wings of the family, nurtured and loved. Only Claudius, the father stork, is reluctant to accept him. When the flock prepares to fly south from Europe for the winter, Claudius, concerned that the little sparrow will not survive the high altitudes, refuses to take their "stepson" with them. The sparrow awakens to find his family gone. At first, he is inconsolable but, in a flurry of energy and bravado, determines to follow them. The journey to Africa is long and treacherous, but Richard is one lucky bird. He meets Olga (Jane Lynch), a lonely pygmy owl, and her imaginary friend, Oleg. Then, Kiki (Mark Thompson), a stagestruck, trickster parakeet, joins the troupe. The unstoppable threesome -- plus Oleg -- is on its way. Suspense escalates as numerous missteps, including an unexpected detour to Italy, and all manner of predators obstruct their flight path. Will the unconventional flock make their way to the Great Lake in Africa where they hope to find Richard's family? Will the stork family be happy to see them? Do birds really fly south for the winter?
Is it any good?
Inventive characters, a straightforward story, lots of comedy, and bright, cheery animation should keep young audiences engaged by this English-language import from Europe. The filmmakers attempt to keep older kids and grown-ups involved, too -- a running bit about "on-line" birds, who sit on electrical wires, is very funny. A Stork's Journey deals with finding one's place in the world and the elements that can turn disparate folks (or species) into a family. However, it isn't a gentle journey. Scary-looking predators and life-threatening situations come up frequently, and there are sad moments in which it appears that one or more of the heroes will not make it. Those instances, and the fact that the film feels a bit long and occasionally repetitive, means the movie is not appropriate for little ones or super-sensitive kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about bird migration. What did you learn from A Stork's Journey about the reasons birds make the long, perilous journeys every year? Find out more about which birds fly south and their destinations. Where do North American birds land in the winter?
What does this movie tell you about what it takes to make a family? What did Claudius learn about his family? How do humans, like the birds in this story, sometimes create an "unofficial" family?
Who was Oleg? What did he mean to Olga? Do you have an imaginary friend? Describe him or her, and talk or write about how what you do together.
- On DVD or streaming: June 1, 2017
- Cast: Drake Bell, Jane Lynch, Marc Thompson
- Director: Toby Genkel
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some peril
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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