Migration – Film Review

Hunting season, pollution, and the dreaded duckling devouring heron!

These are just some of the dangers faced by ducks in Migration every second of the day. Or at least, this is what a certain Mallard duck named Mack (Kumail Nanjani) fears as he attempts to protect his family from day to day life. But in their quiet pond for now he, his partner Pam (Elizabeth Banks), Uncle Dan (Danny Devito), and ducklings Dax (Caspar Jennings) and Gwen (Tresi Gazal) are safe.

Things proceed quietly along with the Mallard family happy with their simple existence, until a migrating flock of ducks makes a pit stop in the family’s pond. These visitors tell exciting stories of their travels and planned destination of Jamaica.

Pam is eager to join the flock to show her kids the world, while Dax becomes smitten by one of the travellers named Kim (Isabella Merced). Mack, however, puts his webbed foot down and the family remain behind as the flock leave. But when it becomes clear to Mack that his fears may cause him to lose his family entirely, the Mallards then plan to make the journey for themselves!

So begins an adventure unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. Through thick and thin, across New York City and beyond to their Jamaican destination, the duck family encounter new friends, dangers and even a new love for each other as they embark on a family vacation of the feathered kind.

For animation studio Illumination, creating beloved children’s films and hilarious characters seems easy. Their Despicable Me franchise birthed the instantly recognisable Minions. While recently The Super Mario Bros. Movie became the highest grossing videogame film ever! Their latest film Migration brings us a completely original story written by Mike White and directed by Benjamin Renner.

I was particularly excited for Migration, being such a fan of Mike White going as far back as 1998’s Dead Man on Campus. Known more for his dark comedy The White Lotus which has won him three Emmy Awards, a children’s film seems an interesting change of pace for him.

Migration has a “road movie” vibe to it, comparable to the classic National Lampoon’s Vacation. We see the family embark on various adventures meeting bizarre characters along the way. Some join the Mallards in their journey while others have a much more limited presence. All are interesting however, varied in their personalities. Awkwafina portrays a twitchy pigeon gang leader named Chump, while Carol Kane is hilarious as the potentially viscous elderly heron named Erin.

There is not really a whole lot to the story of Migration when compared to some other animated children’s films. Not much deeper meaning or underlying subtext for parents to appreciate which would pass over kids’ heads. But this isn’t an altogether bad thing as sometimes it’s just refreshing to have a story which is unashamedly for children.

Its moral message is to not be so scared of the outside world but acknowledge there are threats out there, a respectable lesson which is important for children to learn. Migration delivers this with the same vigour and fun we’ve come to expect from Illumination.

The children in the audience were at tentatively glued to their seats enjoying the ride that Migration had to offer and I must say, it was quite a ride at that. The animation throughout often surprised me with its beauty.

With the deluge of CGI animated films that we see nowadays, I find that it is noteworthy when one can achieve this level of quality. Illumination show us in Migration that they’re at the top if their game. Several scenes where we view the Mallard’s perspective of flight, such as the first time we see the family leave the pond, break through the surrounding woods and into view of a sunrise are stunning. Accompanied by a riveting score provided by Scott Powell who known for his work on action blockbusters, combined, this makes for a marvellous overall experience of Migration. Not something I expected from a film following talking waterfowl.

Illumination proves once again that they may very well rival Pixar if not in depth, then most certainly with presentation. Although Migration has predictable story, it is delivered in such a way that it’s impossible to walk away from disappointed. Migration is a light-hearted fun filled entertaining adventure with plenty of innocent laughs for audiences, young and old alike.

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