Migration: Leaving the Nest

To really learn how to fly, you have to leave the nest.

In Migration, we follow The Mallard Family, a family of ducks who live a quiet life on their New England pond. But, after a migrating duck family briefly stops by their home, the Mallard family find themselves divided. Suddenly, wife Pam (Elizabeth Banks), teen son Dax (Caspar Jennings) and young Gwen (Trezi Gazal) find themselves yearning for adventure, much to the chagrin of father Mack (Kumail Nanjiani). Terrified of danger, Mack is reluctant but his family’s insistence causes him to relent. As the Mallards make their way to Jamaica for the winter, misdirection and inexperience in the air cause them to lose their way. Now, Mack, Pam and the rest must battle their way out of New York City in order to salvage their vacation—and save their lives.

Written by Mike White and directed by Benjamin Renner, Migration is fun and feathered fare that the whole family could enjoy. Known for his work on School of Rock  and The White Lotus, one might expect that White’s script may lean into the darker edges. Nevertheless, this is a story that keeps the tone light, even in moments when the things get heavier. Produced by Illumination, the studio that created Despicable Me and The Secret Life of PetsMigration doesn’t have the edge of some of their other films. Even so, backed by solid animation and some fun performances, Migration still manages to stay on course.

Interestingly, Migration actually feels like a maturation for Illumination. Since the Minions first showed their tiny yellow behinds in Despicable Me, Illumination has made a name for themselves telling stories that generally feature more… base humour. Nevertheless, Migration’s laughs seem to work differently. Rather than lean into the potty humour, the Mallard family jokes tend to stem more from characters and story moments. As a result, while the tone may be tamer, the laughs are (arguably) more ‘earned’.

(from left) Pam (Elizabeth Banks), Dax (Caspar Jennings), Mack (Kumail Nanjiani), Gwen (Tresi Gazal) and Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito) in Illumination’s Migration, directed by Benjamin Renner.

At its heart though, Migration is all about taking risks. Out of fear for his family’s safety, Mack refuses to do anything that would put them in jeopardy. Although every parent’s desire is to take care of their own, Mack takes his concern to the next level. For him, stepping outside the pond simply isn’t a risk worth taking. After all, this is their home and the world is a dangerous place. But, for Mack’s family, his over-protective attitude has gotten claustrophobic. Pam, Dax and Gwen have decided that they would like to live their lives and, after pressuring Mack to let them free, they finally get the chance to do so. 

And the fresh air breathes life into their family. 

(from left) Pam (Elizabeth Banks), Mack (Kumail Nanjiani) and Dax (Caspar Jennings) in Illumination’s Migration, directed by Benjamin Renner.

Through the course of their travels, each member of the Mallard family find different ways to spread their wings. Suddenly, Dax begins to step into adulthood with confidence while Gwen begins to learn the nature of trust. New adventures and challenges allow them to tap in new parts of themselves, giving them joy at their successes.

But, more than this, by allowing the family to grow up, they also manage to grow together. Because of the adversity they face as a family, Mack, Pam and the kids manage to find new ways to trust one another. This is the heart behind this Migration, allowing the film to endear itself to the audience with silliness and joy. As such, while its simple story may keep this Migration from reaching the highest of heights, there’s no denying that it’s worth the trip.

Migration is available on 4K, Blu-Ray and Digital on Tuesday, February 27th, 2024.

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