Family of ducks takes flight in whimsical animated film Migration
The rise of animation studio Illumination as a power in the industry has been fascinating to watch, as they have had three big animated franchises – Despicable Me (with Minions as an offshoot), Sing, and The Secret Life of Pets – in just 14 years. With two Dr. Seuss movies and now The Super Mario Bros. Movie also in their stable, they have become as powerful as Disney in the family movie sphere.
They have moved away from the tried-and-true with their latest, Migration, which follows a family of ducks – dad Mack (Kumail Nanjiani), mom Pam (Elizabeth Banks), teen son Dax (Caspar Jennings), daughter Gwen (Tresi Gazal), and Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito). Mack is overly protective of the family, never letting them venture far from their home pond in New England.
When another group of migrating ducks passes through, Mack finally gives in to the pleas of the rest of the family to let them travel, with the aim to make it to Jamaica. Naturally, their trip south is full of unexpected adventures, including run-ins with Erin (Carol Kane), a scary heron; Chump (Awkwafina), a tough pigeon; Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key), a caged parrot; and Goo Goo (David Mitchell), the leader of another flock of ducks whose home may not be as serene as they thought.
Directed by Benjamin Renner and Guylo Homsy and written by Mike White, the film is full of whimsy that has its share of silliness, but never stupidity. The trap that many animated films fall into is playing to people who love base humor, but the jokes on display in Migration almost always feel well-earned thanks to the level of characterization provided.
The road trip aspect of the movie is fun, with the curmudgeonly dad balanced out by the practical mom, adventurous kids, and zany uncle. The other characters they run into along with the way are each the center of comic set pieces, and all of the sequences find a way to exaggerate their humor without going too over-the top.
Illumination films have typically featured non-realistic characters and settings, but the animators stepped up their game for this film in their depictions of the main family and their environments, especially the water. They also take full advantage of the ducks’ ability to fly, putting the action up in the air on several occasions, giving the audience a sensation not often felt in animated films.
While the voicework in the film is great for the most part, the decision to have actors of four different nationalities play the family members is slightly jarring. Nanjiani (Pakistani) and Banks (American) are experienced comic actors who bring the most out of their characters, while Jennings (English) and Gazal (Australian) acquit themselves well, even if they got their parts because they are children of Illumination filmmakers.
Migration will have to duke it out with Wonka for families looking to go to the movies over the holidays, but Illumination has proven once again that they are a powerhouse in the animation field. With a relatively grounded story and some stellar animation, they may have started yet another popular franchise.
Migration is now playing in theaters.