A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Swift is an animated German production, adapted for English-speaking audiences. An orphaned baby bird, a "swift," is taken in by a loving family of seagulls, then must learn that species' ways to be accepted. When he realizes that he's really a swift, and is forced by circumstances to join that flock, he once again struggles to be at home. Viewers can expect multiple sequences in which the birds are in danger. A scary pack of rats fiercely attacks the birds in multiple scenes, with lots of fighting and narrow escapes. The heroic birds also are caught in a raging storm, then fall into the turbulent ocean below. The birds tease with some insults and slurs (i.e., "yellow people," "guano poopers," "stupid," "fleabag"). One "kick butt" is heard. Because of the cartoon violence and suspense, this movie isn't appropriate for little kids or those who aren't yet comfortable with real versus pretend violence.
What's the story?
Manou (voiced by Josh Keaton), a baby swift, is all alone in the hills above the French Riviera in SWIFT. He's a lucky little guy when he's adopted by two generous seagulls, Blanche (Kate Winslet) and Yves (Willem Dafoe), just before their own baby hatches. Manou becomes part of the seagull family, though it's quite clear he's a very different kind of bird. In a chance meeting with three young swifts, Manou realizes that he's one of them, and likes their company, but not enough to leave his family. Then an unfortunate event occurs. Though doing his best, Manou fails to protect an egg left in his care from sharp-toothed rats and is banished from the seagull flock. Hurt and saddened, Manou turns to his new swift friends for solace, especially Kalifa (Cassandra Steen), a very charming femme fatale. With winter coming, both species of birds look forward to their flight south, but plans are interrupted by the same dangerous rats and unexpected turbulent weather. It's up to Manou to unite the swifts and the seagulls, help them accept their differences, and work as a team to escape the peril and fly south together.
Is it any good?
The frequently good-looking animation and the whimsical story of an orphan living in two different bird worlds aren't enough to offset the weaknesses in this well-intentioned production. The scenes that move through the French Riviera are well-drawn, as is an exciting bird race. Seeing the differences in bird species -- seagulls glide when they fly while swifts flap their wings; one species eats bugs, the other is hooked on fish -- are both instructive and fun. However, Swift is long, clunky, and moves from one action sequence to another without much in the way of character development or charm. The sound is sketchy; it's especially hard to hear the words spoken by both Willem Dafoe and Kate Winslet. Finally, for a story that is meant for little kids, the rats are seriously scary.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about cartoon violence in films like Swift. Though the characters are cute, cuddly, and funny, in what ways could this movie be disturbing for little kids? How does your family decide when movies are age-appropriate for you? Why is it important to be aware of the impact of film violence on kids?
The seagulls and the swifts had to put their differences aside to protect one another and make their long trip south successful. How satisfying was it to see the seagulls "gliding" and the swifts "flapping" together on their journey? In what ways is this a lesson for kids, too?
Did you know that a group of rats is called a mischief? Every species of living creature has a term for their group. Look up some unusual ones. What is a group of giraffes called? Owls? Toads?
- On DVD or streaming: February 21, 2020
- Cast: Willem Dafoe, Kate Winslet, Josh Keaton
- Directors: Christian Haas, Alexandra Block
- Studio: Shout! Factory
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Science and Nature
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: April 7, 2020
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