Migration - Movie Reviews


Migration - Movie Reviews

Migration," the latest animated film from Illumination Studios, aimed at young audiences, falls short of expectations. The Mallards, a duck family led by Kumail Nanjiani's overly cautious Mack, embark on a Caribbean migration, but their misadventures in New York City ensue. Despite talents like Mike White and Benjamin Renner, the film lacks substance and originality, resembling a forgettable TV special. While young children may find some distraction in its bright colors and slapstick humor, "Migration" fails to provide a truly magical and memorable experience, likely leaving a more lasting impression at the concession stand.

As some of you may have observed, there's a prevalent bird-related motif in the animated feature films currently gracing the theaters this month. Initially, we had “The Boy and the Heron,” the most recent creation from the master animator Hayao Miyazaki. If this does happen to mark his final venture into cinema, it stands as a fitting conclusion to one of the most remarkable filmmaking careers of our era. Subsequently, there was “Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget,” the sequel to the cherished 2000 Aardman classic. While it boasts some entertaining moments, regrettably, it inevitably pales in comparison to its nearly flawless predecessor. Now enters “Migration,” the newest endeavor from Illumination Studios, renowned for the “Despicable Me”/“Minions” franchises and this year’s blockbuster “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

Migration," regrettably, lacks any genuine points of interest for viewers above the age of 8, to the extent that it nearly elevates “Dawn of the Nugget” to the status of Miyazaki's recent film in comparison. How lacking is it, you might ask? It's so lacking that I intend to abstain from employing any bird-related remarks, even those potentially clich├ęd critiques, which, despite their predictability, manage to showcase more flashes of wit and ingenuity than anything presented in this film.

The central focus of the movie revolves around the Mallards, a duck family comprised of the overly cautious father Mack (Kumail Nanjiani), adventurous mother Pam (Elizabeth Banks), teenage son Dax (Caspar Jennings), adorable duckling daughter Gwen (Tresi Gazal), and the grumpy Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito). Confined to their New England pond due to Mack's apprehensions about the outside world, the family has never ventured beyond. However, when another duck family, including one (Isabela Merced) that captures Dax's immediate interest, makes a brief stop in their pond during their annual migratory journey to Jamaica, the family persuades the initially hesitant Mack to break free from their routine and embark on a trip to the Caribbean themselves.

Presumably due to their lack of migratory experience, the Mallards inadvertently head in the wrong direction and find themselves lost in the heart of New York City. There, they encounter a group of pigeons led by the irascible Chump (Awkwafina). As luck would have it, Chump is acquainted with a Jamaican parrot named Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key), who can assist them in finding their way to the South. However, Delroy is currently confined in a trendy Manhattan restaurant, serving as the pet of the owner and head chef. The Mallards manage to liberate Delroy and embark on their journey to Jamaica. Along the way, they navigate through the anticipated wacky escapades and mild conflicts, relentlessly pursued by a malevolent chef with aspirations reminiscent of Martin Yan. This chef, seemingly prosperous enough to afford a private helicopter, spares no effort in chasing them down.

And that's essentially the gist of it—a storyline so thin that it resembles more of a TV special, the kind often produced by a popular franchise to sustain audience interest between major feature films. While the slim narrative isn't inherently surprising, what does raise eyebrows is the fact that the screenplay for such an utterly innocuous film comes from the pen of Mike White—the same individual behind acclaimed works like "School of Rock," "Year of the Dog," and "The White Lotus" (and yes, he was also co-writer for the admittedly less favorable "The Emoji Movie"). Equally astonishing is the involvement of Benjamin Renner as co-director; known for his previous work on sly, charming, and visually striking animated features such as "Ernest & Celestine" and "The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales.

One might expect a collaboration between these talents to yield a film with a few intriguing quirks, but their collective efforts have, for lack of a better term, produced a movie so blandly formulaic that it makes "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" seem practically avant-garde in comparison. Even the visuals, aside from a couple of passable compositions utilizing the 2:35 aspect ratio, are forgettable.

The closest "Migration" comes to anything interesting is inadvertently touching upon material similar to other current bird-themed animated films. There's a peculiar encounter between the Mallards and a potentially dangerous heron (voiced by Carol Kane), a scene that, while not directly following the Miyazaki film, presents a strange coincidence. Later, there's a significant set piece where the Mallards stumble upon a seemingly idyllic duck farm with a dark secret—a sequence strikingly similar to the main plot of "Dawn of the Nugget," down to specific details of the location. Given that all three films were presumably produced around the same time, it appears to be a case of great minds thinking alike. Unfortunately, it seems those great minds were too preoccupied with their other projects to contribute significantly here.

Young children might find some distraction in the film's bright colors, slapstick humor, and straightforward story, especially during its relatively brief runtime. However, children deserve more from their entertainment than just surface-level engagement. This film is targeted at an age when movies can truly be magical, creating memories that last a lifetime. While "Migration" may serve as a time-filler, it's likely that the lasting memories for these kids will revolve more around the treats from the concession stand than anything happening on the screen.

Now playing in theaters.

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