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Migration Movie Review: Ducks Leave the Pond

It can be a scary world out there, so it’s tempting to stay in the pond, or close to home, in order to feel safe and keep your family safe. As a parent, I get it.

I understand the fear of the unknown and the desire to protect your kids from all the dangers lurking out there. Plus, the pond is great! It’s well known, fully explored already, and safety is guaranteed.

But the call of adventure is strong, too. At least, it’s strong in some. In Migration, the pull to get out and explore – to migrate to Jamaica – is something Mom and the kids want, but not dad.

migration movie poster

Migration: Leaving the Comfort Zone (or Comfort Pond)

Dad in this case is a duck named Mack, voiced by Kumail Nanjiani. He’s a loving and devoted husband to Pam (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) and father to his two ducklings, but his main goal in life is to keep them safe. Which to him means staying in the pond and definitely not migrating.

A chance meeting with a flock of ducks who’ve stopped over in the pond on their way South for the Winter plants a seed in the rest of the family’s minds: let’s migrate, too!

This ideas scares Mack, but with some convincing from his wife and kids, and probably against his better judgement, Mack decides to lead his family on a Migration.

Migrating Means Facing Your Fears

So Mack, Pam, the kids and Uncle Dan (voiced by Danny DeVito) all take off and head for Jamaica – and the start of their adventure.

Of course they encounter dangers along the way, and they get sidetracked into New York City by mistake, but they pull together as a family, act as a team, and find that they’re stronger than they thought – and that they actually might be enjoying this adventure business.

There’s a scene of the family flying amidst the clouds that’s really quite delightful – and proves there’s fun to be had out there in the world, too.

In fact, according to Director Benjamin Renner, part of the design of the film is meant to showcase the fact that there are many amazing things you’ll see and experience when you get out of your comfort zone.

The Duck family, flying in formation on their migration, (from left) Mom Pam (Elizabeth Banks), Dad Mack (Kumail Nanjiani) and Dax (Caspar Jennings) in Illumination’s Migration, directed by Benjamin Renner.
The Duck family, flying in formation on their migration, (from left) Mom Pam (Elizabeth Banks), Dad Mack (Kumail Nanjiani) and Dax (Caspar Jennings) in Illumination’s Migration, directed by Benjamin Renner.

Great Supporting Cast as Well

The duck family made the big decision to hit the road, but it turns out they need some help actually finding their way to Jamaica, so a chance meeting with a pigeon named Chump (voiced by Akwafina) leads them to meet a parrot named Delroy (voiced by Keegan Michael-Key), who knows the way to Jamaica because it’s where’s he from – and he’s dying to go home!

Of course, first they’ll have to free him from the cage of a maniacal chef, who keeps him as a pet.

The duck family has landed in New York by mistake, and it’s freaking them out just a little bit.

About the Movie Migration

Overall, the movie is family-friendly, while telling a good story and doing it well. The duck family gets into some sticky situations as they travel south, but I always felt they would be able to handle it and that the danger was not that scary.

The characters are strong and the dialogue is funny. Carole Kane gives a strong performance as a heron who seems like she might be a danger to the ducks, but turns out to be a very sweet grandmotherly type of bird, and who helps them on their way.

Akwafina’s pigeon starts off as a tough customer, but in the end is an old softy, who also helps the ducks and will miss them when they leave.

Keegan-Michael‘s Delroy, the Jamaican parrot, is a general laugh-riot and it’s lucky that he’s in the story as long as he is, because he’s a delightful character.

Of course Danny DeVito is terrific as Uncle Dan, and Elizabeth Banks is as strong as ever as Pam, the mom. Kumail Nanjiani as Dad is funny of course – he may be just built funny – but he does a great job of being vulnerable, too: As the Dad who’s so worried about his kids and keeping his family safe.

Each of the characters in the family gets a chance to do something to show their true nature, as well as to show how strong they can be, which is a great skill in the storytelling.

In addition, the animation is great. The use of colors is wonderful, and it feels like there’s depth to the ducks and animals, which is not always the case in an animated movie.

Official Info About Migration the Movie

This holiday season, Illumination, creators of the blockbuster Minions, Despicable Me, Sing and The Secret Life of Pets comedies, invites you to take flight into the thrill of the unknown with a funny, feathered family vacation like no other in the action-packed new original comedy, Migration. 

The Mallard family is in a bit of 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. 

From a screenplay by Mike White, the Emmy winning creator of The White Lotus and the screenwriter of School of Rock, the film stars a top-flight comedic cast led by Oscar® and Emmy nominee Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Eternals) as anxious Mallard dad Mack and Emmy nominee Elizabeth Banks (Hunger Games and Pitch Perfect franchises) as Pam, the Mallards’ daring, quick-witted matriarch.

Caspar Jennings plays Dax, the Mallards’ confident and restless son, and, in her feature film debut, Tresi Gazal plays Gwen, the family’s innocent and lovable daughter.

Golden Globe winner Awkwafina (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) voices the scrappy leader of a New York City pigeon gang; Emmy winner and Oscar® nominee Carol Kane (The Princess Bride) plays Erin the heron, the first friend that the Mallards make on their journey; Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key (The Super Mario Bros. Movie, The Lion King) voices a homesick Jamaican parrot locked away in a Manhattan restaurant, and BAFTA winner David Mitchell (Peep Show) plays the yogic leader of a mysterious duck farm. Legendary Emmy winner and Oscar® nominee Danny DeVito (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) co-stars as Mack’s curmudgeonly, adventure-averse Uncle Dan. 

Directed by Benjamin Renner, the Oscar®-nominated filmmaker of Ernest & Celestine and The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales, Migration is a visual spectacle unlike any in Illumination’s acclaimed history, featuring elevated, expressionist artistry and Illumination’s signature subversive humor and authentic heart, unforgettable characters and joyful soundtrack. 

Produced by Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri, Migration is a film about overcoming your fears and opening yourself up to the world and its opportunities. The film is co-directed by Guylo Homsy (Head of Layout and Cinematography for Sing and Sing 2), edited by Christian Gazal (Happy Feet, Peter Rabbit) and the Production Designer is Colin Stimpson (The Secret Life of Pets 2).

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