Adventure Movies

Illumination’s Cute-Enough Animated Duck Adventure

December 20, 20235 Mins Read

Let’s get the fact-checking out of the way early: As a pandemic-made birder and lifelong animal fan, there are a number of inaccuracies in Benjamin Renner’s mostly amiable animated outing “Migration” that I simply cannot let stand. The film follows a family of New England-based mallard ducks, led by understandably cautious dad Mack (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) and far more adventurous mom Pam (voiced by a chipper Elizabeth Banks; there is nothing she can’t do with style), who mildly disagree on how to raise their cute kids, teenage Dax (voiced by Caspar Jennings) and duckling Gwen (voiced by Tresi Gazal). Alas, if your brain (like mine) is filled with bird facts, you’re already balking here. Mallards don’t mate for life! Teenage ducks don’t stick around with their families! Just one duckling in a clutch, come on!

But if “Migration” succeeds at anything, it’s being cute enough to shut up my reams of fact-checking and note-taking (I will just say, fans of herons are going to have a lot to say when they exit the theater). After all, this is an animated feature film mostly geared toward the younger set, and if it delights them enough to inspire a deeper look into the real world of birds, that’s good enough. Bonus: 82 minutes of family-friendly entertainment that should put the kids and adults in a good-enough mood during the madness of the holidays.

Mack’s aversion to most things has impacted his life in ways large and small: mostly, though, it’s kept his little family stuck in the same pond for generations. It’s hard to blame Mack — the world is scary, and Nanjiani sells that fear with aplomb — but Pam is struggling with her own desires to take literal wing with her cute flock, and when a migrating pack of ducks arrives on the fam’s pond, spouting off the benefits of migration (like, oh, wintering in Jamaica), Dax and Gwen suddenly can’t wait to leave. Enter: grizzled old Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito, obviously), who tells Mack he’s made the right choice, the kind of choice that will allow him to end up just as grizzled and lonely as Dan. Kids, we’re going migrating!


Renner’s film, written by the filmmaker and Mike White (yes, that Mike White) tends to ramble more than might be expected from a film with such a slim running time and such a clearly defined adventure. First, the Mallards (now joined by Uncle Dan too, why not?) head north instead of south — a hilarious enough idea to guide the entire film — which ultimately serves as a way to temporarily land the flock in New York City. That’s a movie in itself right there! But while Renner and White find some stop-gap delights in the journey to the big city — including a visit with a Carol Kane-voiced heron that’s both wildly unnerving and quite bold — once they set down inside Gotham, “Migration” starts to feel a bit more predictably plotted.

Baffled in the big city, the Mallards run afoul (afowl?) of brash pigeon Chump (voiced by Awkwafina), who fearlessly leads her bird-brained flock, bum foot and all (“Migration” is colorful and zippy, but there are some wonderfully realistic details that really make it pop, horrifyingly fun pigeon design being just one example). Soon, however, they bond over their similar, be-winged worries, and Chump offers to bring the Mallards to a Jamaican pal (Keegan Michael-Key voices Delroy the parrot) who might be able to guide them to the tropical island of their dreams.

Alas, first they must battle a wacky, wordless bad guy who seems drawn firmly from the Illumination mold, a too-hip spin on Gru (little tiny legs, oddly large torso) who also smacks of Turkish restauranteur Nusret Gökçe (aka Salt Bae). Wherever he springs from, he’s a real jerk, a chef who not only keeps Delroy under lock and key but also boasts duck a l’orange (“It’s us, with l’orange!”) as his signature dish. Look out, Mallard family!


Wacky hijinks ensue, colorful animation (computer-animated, but harkening back to Renner’s comic book bonafides) spills from the screen, and the ducks (plus the pigeon, plus the parrot, plus whoever else they find along the way) are soon spinning their way through a wild adventure punctuated by a bad guy in a helicopter. It is very silly and often strange, but it’s also sweet and funny, and damn it all if you don’t start to really care about this odd little family.

Comedy lagging? Never fear: The group ends up at a duck farm clearly inspired by “Chicken Run” and led by a zenned-out duck dude named Googoo (voiced by David Mitchell). Adorable bonding? The Mallards, for all their wackiness, cobble together a zany flock of all their new friends. High stakes drama? Don’t sleep on the moment Chef Mean Guy comes a-callin’ on said adorable new flock, via Very Obviously Nefarious Helicopter. It may zing and zag in unexpected formations — again, there absolutely is an entire other film about a duck family lost in Central Park; I beg someone to make this ASAP — but it all soars along at a genial enough clip.

Does it stick the landing? Enough to make us wonder about the path the Mallards are going to take after this first migratory foray, another journey for another day (go back to Central Park!).

Grade: B-

Universal Pictures and Illumination will release “Migration” in theaters on Friday, December 22.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts


Get our latest downloads and information first.
Complete the form below to subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

No, thank you. I do not want.
100% secure your website.