Dec 19, 2023
Benjamin Renner, Guylo Homsy
Mike White, Benjamin Renner
Elizabeth Banks, Kumail Nanjiani, Danny DeVito
A family of mallard ducks decides to migrate to Jamaica, setting off a series of misadventures and kid-friendly comedy in the latest animated film from Illumination, Migration.
When exotic ducks land in same pond as our mallard family, son Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings) becomes smitten with one of the flock, prompting his desire to head south for the winter. Mom Pam (Elizabeth Banks), is also intrigued by idea. Littlest duck, Gwen (Tresi Gazal), seems ready for anything, but Dad Mack (Kumail Nanjiani), it too fearful of the outside world to consider leaving their little pond.
The catalyst for adventure comes from Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito). He gives Mack the prod he needs for accepting Pam’s request to open his eyes to the world.
So little time is spent on Mack’s paranoia and fear that his change of heart doesn’t make much of an impact. Based on the title, we already know the family – with Uncle Dan along for the ride – is going to make the journey, so no surprise there. And you can expect hijinx along the way.
The humor–mainly predictable and heavy-handed–derives from the family’s reactions to the obstacles and characters they meet along the way. While this might entertain the youngest in the audience, it gets tedious for the rest of us.
Migration’s tender-hearted treatment of each member of our duck family is its selling point. Though Mack’s fears would keep him in his little window forever, Pam is willing to help him overcome his reticence and step out into the wider world. Uncle Dan’s sweet relationship with little Gwen makes him more than just comic relief.
The ancillary characters don’t all get the same heart. The imprisoned parrot Delroy (Keegan-MichaelKey) is a standout in a sea of mostly forgettable side players. His longing for his former home is palpable. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the film’s unnecessary villain. The grunting chef who cooks ducks and particularly dislikes Mack and Pam lacks the menace necessary to create a memorable bad guy.
Migration fits the bill for lighthearted fun. But its predictability and shallow characters limit its potential to become anyone’s newest holiday favorite.