Featuring: Kumail Nanjiani, Elizabeth Banks, Awkwafina, Keegan-Michael Key, David Mitchell, Carol Kane, Caspar Jennings, Tresi Gazal and Danny DeVito
Genre: Comedy, Family
Director: Benjamin Renner
In Cinemas: 2nd February 2024
The Mallard family is in a bit of a rut. While dad Mack is content to keep his family safe paddling around their New England pond forever, mom Pam is eager to shake things up and show their kids—teen son Dax and duckling daughter Gwen—the whole wide world. After a migrating duck family alights on their pond with thrilling tales of far-flung places, Pam persuades Mack to embark on a family trip via New York City to tropical Jamaica. As the Mallards make their way South for the winter, their well-laid plans quickly go awry. The experience will inspire them to expand their horizons, open themselves up to new friends and accomplish more than they ever thought possible while teaching them more about each other—and themselves—than they ever imagined.
Migration is catered to and aimed at the younger audience. It has all the necessary ingredients to make it appealing to kids, including explosions of colour, silly jokes and a decent and familiar voice cast. Some characters learn and grow throughout the film. Still, overall, the story is minimally basic and never takes the risk of standing out from the crowd or feeling different from any other generic animated film. It is essential sometimes and required to keep the adults engaged during a children’s movie, and it never seems to be addressed here. Nothing ever grabs our attention to connect with the plot or characters; unfortunately, it is flat and occasionally dull. There is a missed opportunity to educate our younger audience members about the reasoning behind migration and why birds move around during different seasonal changes. But there never seems to be anything new to learn here, and it frustrately decides to structure the appeal and narrative to the old reliable silliness. The animation of the characters could be the only positive and robust element. It visually complements the characters when put into motion, flying around side by side; whenever on screen, it is satisfying to witness the level of detail and an almost a sense of realism that is magically engrained into certain scenes.
Several aspects become challenging to like. Although there is a requirement and portrayal to make the villain a lousy person and to give him all of the associated qualities of being nasty, in this film, he is very one-dimensional. He works as a feared head chef and lacks the required depth to create a human character, and instead, he is mistakenly developed into an evil cartoonish baddie. When he is chasing the mallards and trying to catch them so he can cook and serve them in his restaurant, there is never a motive or explanation behind his actions. Nothing seems rational or logical; there are countless moments during the movie where something is happening, and we seem to miss out and be left confused as an audience; there is a vital need to be informed and brought up to speed about the current narrative of the story. The plot could be more complex in that a group of birds leave their safe pond to travel across America to Jamaica in search of adventure and change. Still, these opportunities should be explored or executed in the film. Essentially, it is a Road trip type of movie consisting of animated birds that should be bursting with fun ideas and mischief, but instead, it is tedious.
The casting process in choosing the actors could have been better when pairing the voices with the characters. Disappointingly, it was distracting and built up annoyance for much of the film. Kumail Najiani, as the dad Mack, almost felt like he was reading from a script as if he was asking questions rather than stating expressions and instantly became forgettable. Elizabeth Banks, as the mom, Pam, was OK and didn’t offer anything extraordinary or different. The highlight of the ensemble was undoubtedly their children, Gwen and Dax, voiced by Tresi Gazal and Caspar Jennings. They offer a lot that younger audience members will relate to and latch on to. The general story and tone are not fun or engaging when the family go on adventures in this film. Still, the outstanding visuals are the leading high point and gain momentum in moments of disinterest. There never seems to be an issue with the animation, and it would be highly beneficial if Illumination were to focus and invest in the weak elements of their movies. Storytelling and scriptwriting have been the significant disadvantage in recent projects, with Super Mario Bros being the latest. It is unfair to the talented team of artists that they do not have a solid plot to complement their achievements.