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Migration Review

December 22, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Migration - Illumination Universal 2 Image Credit: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Studios
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Migration Review  

Directed By: Benjamin Renner
Written By: Mike White
Runtime: 91 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG for action/peril and mild rude humor

Kumail Nanjiani – Mack Mallard
Elizabeth Banks – Pam Mallard
Caspar Jennings – Dax Mallard
Tresi Gazal – Gwen Mallard
Danny DeVito – Uncle Dan
Awkwafina – Chump
Keegan-Michael Key – Delroy
Carol Kane – Erin the Heron
David Mitchell – GooGoo
Isabela Merced – Kim
Boris Rehlinger – Chef

Hot off the heels of the success of The Super Mario Bros. movie, Illumination Entertainment presents a new original story with the studio’s latest animated feature, Migration. Migration is not an amazing animated experience, and it’s a fairly broad, predictable animated family adventure. However, the film makes up for its shortcomings with vibrant animation, decently likable main characters, and a talented voice-over cast.

The story follows a family of ducks, the Mallards, who are living an uneventful, routine life in their rural, safe forest pond. Dad Mack (Nanjiani) is content with the family’s circumstances. However, mom Pam (Banks) is eager to venture outside the safety of their risk-free home and see the world. Mack’s overly cautious, worrywart attitude shuts down any hope of leaving for a vacation, despite an offer from a friendly flock of ducks who make a pit stop in their pond during their migrative flight to the Bahamas.

Much to Pam’s disappointment, Mack refuses the offer and fails to share her interest in leaving the nest. However, Mack is finally hit with an epiphany after seeing the state of his lazy Uncle Dan’s (DeVito) oafish existence. Thus, Mack decides it’s finally time for his family to embark on their first great migration to the Bahamas. Unfortunately, Mack and Pam’s internal compass is off, and the Mallard family unwittingly flies north to New York City instead of southward to the Bahamas. Of course, many high jinks ensue for the fowl family as they seek to survive New York City with their feathers intact.

Renner and writer Mike White mostly structure Migration like a typical vacation from hell comedy, where a family goes on vacation and everything goes wrong. The biggest twist for Migration derives from how the big screw-ups aren’t all that disastrous. In fact, what starts as a series of disasters generally works out to the Mallards’ benefit as they discover more about themselves. Mack, of course, realizes that venturing outside his comfort zone isn’t so bad. This results in Migration inverting many derivative vacation comedy tropes, which is nicely refreshing. The main drawback is that it tends to lessen the story’s overall sense of tension and conflict.

Unfortunately, the story’s chief source of conflict appears in the form of an evil, posh celebrity chef (Boris Rehlinger). The chef keeps a pet parrot, Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key), as his pet, so the Mallards seek to liberate Delroy to help guide them to the Bahamas and reunite with his long-lost family. The evil chef, who looks like a cross between Elton John and Robert Irvine, then targets Delroy and the Mallards after they wreak unintentional havoc at his fancy-pants eatery. The evil chef serves as a perfunctory antagonist for the Mallards, speaking only in grunts and growls. At the very least, the character presents a fascinating character design and silhouette.

Renner exceeds wonderfully with the visual scope of Migration. The locations look elaborate and vibrant. The flight sequences with the ducks soar just as the birds of flight do. The animators at Illumination are creating some vibrant animation, and multiple sequences in Migration look impressive. All the main duck characters are nicely designed, and it’s fun when the animators showcase the characters’ more animalistic behaviors.

Migration also boasts a solid voice-over cast. Despite his overly cautious outlook, Nanjiani’s Mack and the rest of his family are all generally likable. Thankfully, the Mallard ducklings Dax (Jennings) and Gwen (Gazal) aren’t too annoying. Gwen provides the right mixture of cuteness without crossing over into annoyance, giving the film its best laughs. Although Migration is a comedy, it feels relatively light on big laughs and contains enough humor to keep the adults suitably entertained.

Migration turns out to be a decent animated experience. It’s a family comedy that plays it safe, but it has its moments complemented by strong animation efforts by director Benjamin Renner and Illumination.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Migration plays its story safely as a broad, CG-animated family comedy. It's a fairly basic, straightforward plot with very few twists and turns. However, it's acceptable entertainment for kids and families to watch together, and it features vibrant, exceptional animation, along with stunning visual direction and flair by Benjamin Renner and the animators at Illumination.