Adventure Movies

Illumination’s Latest Is A Safe But Sweet Adventure Tale For Families To Enjoy

December 20, 20236 Mins Read


  • Benjamin Renner’s animated film Migration avoids pandering to adults and delivers a sincere and charming story with the help of a smart screenplay by Mike White.
  • While the storytelling in Migration doesn’t take many risks, the visuals and relationship dynamics elevate the film and make moments of surprise feel earned.
  • Despite its obvious central thesis, Migration concludes in a heartwarming and creative fashion, offering thoughtful lessons for young viewers without sacrificing entertainment value.

I had my qualms going into Migration, as animated movies aimed at kids can sometimes be cloying in their attempts to pander to parents and other adults. Director Benjamin Renner — who also shares credit for the story — avoids this pitfall by opting for a more straightforward sincerity, aided by Mike White’s (of The White Lotus and School of Rock fame) smart screenplay. The “lesson” of the movie is laid out plainly in the opening scenes, but the characters are charming enough to set aside the feeling of being schooled by the screen.

As for signs of out-of-the-box storytelling, Migration doesn’t take as many chances as its characters do, but Illumination’s latest animated adventure story is breathtaking when it truly takes flight. Considering that the film’s premise rests on the concept of adventure versus safety, the narrative does not often stray from the unexpected, but the at-times gorgeous visuals and carefully crafted relationship dynamics help the moments of supposed surprise feel earned. When all was said and done, I came away feeling the studio had succeeded in creating their first truly memorable original characters outside the Despicable Me franchise.

‘s central thesis may be obvious, but it arrives at its conclusion in a heartwarming and creative fashion.

What Is Migration About?

Migration begins in the safest place possible for a family of mallards — the local pond, which they have not left for as long as they can remember. They are constantly forced to remember that fact thanks to the patriarch of the family, Mack (Kumail Nanjiani in a thoroughly endearing vocal performance), who regales his children with tales of the terror that lies just outside their comfortable home. His partner Pam (Elizabeth Banks), however, longs for adventure and would happily face a myriad of fears if it meant a sneak peek of the world beyond.

Migration Movie Poster


Migration is an animated adventure-comedy from Illumination and features an ensemble cast including Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Awkwafina, and Keegan-Michael Key. The cast takes on the role of a family of mallards who has lived in the safety of their pond all their lives and decide to migrate for a vacation. However, when the family discovers they migrated the wrong way, they end up in New York City, forcing them to find a way out and down to the Caribbean.

Release Date
December 22, 2023

Benjamin Renner

Kumail Nanjiani , Elizabeth Banks , Keegan-Michael Key , David Mitchell , Carol Kane , Danny DeVito , Casper Jennings , Tresi Gazal

Mike White

Illumination Entertainment

Universal Pictures

When the opportunity presents itself to migrate to Jamaica for the winter, Mack decides to brave the skies and prove to Pam that he still has a zest for life. The couple pack up their kids and Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito at his grouchiest and most delightful), setting off for the trip of a lifetime. Naturally, countless obstacles appear before them, testing each character’s resolve — though Mack is undoubtedly the duck with the largest learning curve. They meet several new friends along the way, most notably a city pigeon named Chump (Awkwafina’s vocal performance is an enjoyable cross between a Godfather homage and a Natasha Lyonne impression) and a Jamaican parrot named Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key is pitch-perfect here), and their family is all the better for it.

Migration Makes Excellent Use Of Perspective

image of a heron glaring with one eye in Migration

Migration‘s central thesis may be obvious, but it arrives at its conclusion in a heartwarming and creative fashion. The opening sequence breaks from the computer-animated style of the rest of the movie to render Mack’s bedtime story to his kids, and the picture he paints shifts every time Pam interrupts to redirect the tale. This trick is sadly not repeated, but it helps set the film apart early on and enforces that the mallards are the architects of their own story.

Humans do not feature heavily in the movie, and the ones that do — such as the lackluster Chef, who is out to make the perfect Duck à l’Orange — are not particularly memorable. But what is memorable is how Migration only shows feet and legs for the most part, highlighting the relative size of the ducks and thus the obvious danger they are in if they are caught by one of those enormous people. My favorite characteristic of the film’s humans was their lack of dialogue. Speech is reserved for animals alone, save for one spectacular Salsa-fied rendition of “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child.

Migration’s Adventure Story Coasts As Often As It Soars

image of mallard family flying together in Migration

The biggest drawback of Migration is that it doesn’t play to its strengths as often as it should. There are high points throughout the film, both on a visual and thematic level, such as the family playing in the clouds or dancing their way through a crowd of people to escape an imminent threat. Yet at the same time, there are lulls where the same gag is repeated thrice to make sure the audience has finished laughing before moving forward with the story. That’s not to say that the movie lags at any point, but it doesn’t reach the heights that both its creative team and cast are capable of.

It does land in an exciting place, nevertheless, which offers enjoyment for children and adults alike. Many family-centric scenes contain thoughtful lessons for young viewers to absorb, but they never forego the entertainment factor. Caspar Jennings and Tresi Gazal are also to be commended for carrying such a large portion of Migration on their backs as young Dax and Gwen respectively, and it was unironically a joy for me to watch their ducklings come of age. The final act is triumphant for the whole family, and it’s hard not to dance along in your theater seat with the ducks that Renner and White have created with such care.


will release in theaters on December 22. The film has a runtime of 92 minutes and is rated PG for action, peril, and mild rude humor.

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