A family of ducks try to convince their overprotective father to go on the vacation of a lifetime. (from IMDB)
The latest project from animation studio Illumination is their most fowl to date -- centering entirely on a family of mallard ducks. Aptly titled Migration, the movie is a bit of a departure from the zaniness of the studio's Despicable Me and Minions films, but nevertheless serves as a highly enjoyable family outing.
Over twenty years ago, raising two baby wild mallards that had been abandoned on our back porch was an unexpected season for my family. When the pair eventually, and inevitably, flew away a few months later, we ended up taking in domesticated ducks, and to this day, my parents still have one duck as a pet. All of this is to say that we're not your typical audience for a story about ducks. We have a major soft spot for the water fowl, and a story like Migration is directly up our alleys. For us, Migration is nearly "cuteness overload" - in a good way - and we left the theater with warm hearts and smiles spread across our faces.
But as a straightforward family movie for the rest of the movie-going public, Migration also works. The mallard family is made up of Mack and Pam and their two ducklings, Gwen and Dax, who all have never ventured outside the safety of their pond. When a flock of ducks lands nearby and talks of migrating to Jamaica for the winter, Pam and the kids express their desire to make the daring trek as well. However, Mack is fearful of the world beyond the confines of their home, and super reluctant to make such a journey. Thankfully, his Uncle Dan inadvertently changes his mind and the family set off on a flight to warmer weather. While the mallards certainly run into serious and dangerous situations along the way, they stick together and learn to adjust to living their day-to-day on the fly.
I have to say it's absolutely refreshing to have a family movie that doesn't drag down the mood or tone for the sake of heavy drama and conflict. For example, Mack and Pam truly love each other, and through their adventures, they only seem to grow closer together. Mack has the biggest character growth in the movie, as he conjures up some bravery along the way, but little Dax also gets a chance to step up and prove his moxy, too. But since there isn't major friction between Pam and Mack, a scene where they use salsa dancing to avoid being trampled by human dancers is sweet, as well as when the pair find themselves briefly trapped in a cage together. Good vibes abound in Migration, and it makes for a really feel-good story.
Illumination really got my attention with 2018's The Grinch. The way they animated the snow and portrayed light was truly jaw-dropping. Now, already five years later, it still looks incredible. With Migration, it isn't snow, but water, and how light is used in the sky. Also, the expressiveness of the ducks is ridiculously adorable and fun. The movie is certainly a feast for the eyes, even if it's a little more subtle this time compared to how spellbinding the look of the snow was before.
The voice performances are also fantastic. Kumail Nanjiani and Elizabeth Banks turn in truly wonderful performances as Mack and Pam (respectively), and Keegan-Michael Key is virtually unrecognizable underneath a Jamaican accent as Delroy. Tresi Gazal and Caspar Jennings are also super cute as Gwen and Dax, and Carol Kane is perfect as the surprisingly off-putting heron, Erin.
Migration is rated PG, but I'd have to say it only just barely warrants the rating. I feel as though I've seen much more harrowing G-rated movies than this one. There is no profanity or crude content, but there is some violence and at least one surprisingly dark and creepy sequence. The latter involves the ducks being caught in a storm and forced to seek refuge inside the shelter of two herons. The mallards know that herons eat ducks, so they are terrified to be in their company. Carol Kane's heron, Erin, is super creepy the entire time she's on screen. From her big eyes to her spindly legs, everything about her makes you uneasy. The sequence is also a bit longer than you might expect, and it is certainly uncomfortable. Later in the film, our fine-feathered heroes find themselves tangoing with the chef of a fine restaurant who has made a name for himself with an apparently succulent duck dish. The man, who remains unnamed and without a single line of dialog, is a goofy-yet-menacing looking fellow who frequently spins a knife in one hand, or is seen wielding a cleaver. He ends up chasing the ducks, and the mallards find themselves having to evade him more than once. Violence-wise, there's also a gag where a pigeon is hit by various speeding vehicles, but manages to survive the encounter.
As much as we loved Migration, it's hardly the best animated movie around; the story is pretty simple and I can see some moviegoers finding the story's lack of major conflict among the main characters actually being a downside. However, for me, Migration's feel-good vibes swoop in at just the right time, making it one of those cinematic holiday releases that help boost - or fuel - the joy of the season.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 12/30/23)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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